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College collaborates to recruit low-income students

September 15, 2017

The College has joined the American Talent Initiative (ATI), a group of 68 elite colleges and institutions that have agreed to work together and share resources, in an effort to create opportunities for low and moderate-income students.

Last April, Jordan Richmond ’16, a pre-doctoral research fellow with the Equality of Opportunity Project, presented the research he and others worked on and recommended that the College join the ATI.

The crux of the research he presented found that for schools like Bowdoin, the students who are admitted and end up attending do well, regardless of their income background. However, the income distribution of admitted students is skewed towards wealthy students.

“One very clear way for Bowdoin to help people growing up in poverty to rise up out of poverty is to seek them out, encourage them to apply, admit them and have them come to Bowdoin,” said Richmond. “And so, in that context, the American Talent Initiative is a group of colleges and universities around the country who are committed to pursuing that mission.”

In addition to the ATI, the College has made efforts to eliminate economic barriers and make the application process more inclusive and accessible. Last year, the school dropped the application fee for applicants who also requested financial aid—substantially increasing the number of applications to the school.

The College is already deeply involved in several other programs like Questbridge, a non-profit organization that connects high-achieving, low-income students to educational and scholarship opportunities, and the Coalition Platform, a program that helps students with the college application process. Joining the ATI marks yet another step the College has taken to reach more high-achieving low-income students and increase economic diversity on campus.

This is an especially important issue at Bowdoin, where 69 percent of the student body is from the top 20 percent of society, according to a New York Times report published in January.

The ATI is particularly useful, as it allows a large group of schools to network and join in the mission of increasing accessibility.

“The value of being part of ATI is that we are agreeing as a collection of schools to work together—to share best practices and information,” said Whitney Soule, dean of admissions and financial aid. “It’s really working to leverage the power of a bunch of schools working together on the same goal.”

Despite the College’s efforts in trying to reach potential students, there are still several logistical challenges that the College faces in terms of recruiting high-achieving, low-income students.

“The problem is that it’s really hard for an individual college or university like Bowdoin to figure out where these kids are. I know that [Admissions] does outreach across the country, but I do know that outreach tends to be focused in urban areas,” said Richmond.

Even with these challenges, the College understands that it must do something with the resources that it has.

“There is a responsibility that comes with the resources that we have, so we are learning or thinking about the things that we can do as schools with resources,” said Soule. “To make a difference, there is a responsibility to work together rather than singularly. That is really an exciting place for Bowdoin to be.”

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