Aspen’s Dan Porterfield and University of California System President Michael Drake underscore the imperative for America’s higher education institutions to invest in solutions that support students from historically underrepresented backgrounds, realizing their role as agents of the public good.
At a time when colleges and universities across America are typically reflecting on the achievements and milestones of the prior semester, capped by a celebration of the accomplishments of another talented class of graduates, they are instead reflecting on one unlike any other.
In an effort to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, presidents at institutions large and small had to send students home, shift to virtual instruction, and postpone commencement exercises. As they look to the fall semester, much more uncertainty lies ahead in the wake of likely state budget cuts, impacted endowments, and the decisions of current and prospective students who might reconsider their college choices. And, of course, college leaders continue to grapple with the implications of how to offer classes in the midst of a pandemic.
As leaders of the American Talent Initiative (ATI)—an alliance of 131 colleges and universities with graduation rates of at least 70% that have committed to ensuring the graduation of 50,000 additional lower-income students by 2025—we urge colleges and universities to meet the needs of low- and moderate-income students even as they chart an uncertain financial future. We issue this appeal with added urgency as the nation seeks to address issues of systemic racism and the impacts of police violence on communities of color.