NYC college recognized as leader in higher ed access and affordability

To celebrate U.S. higher education institutions that are increasing the economic diversity of their student populations, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the American Talent Initiative (ATI) recently recognized 28 ATI member institutions as “high-fliers” for making significant progress in enrolling low-income students. Baruch College, part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system, stands out among the high-fliers as “an upward mobility machine,” writes The New York Times. CUNY, the nation’s largest urban university system, was originally founded to provide free, quality higher education to children of immigrants and the poor. “In many ways, Baruch is realizing that vision, but in a 21st-century way,” S. David Wu, Baruch’s president, tells the Times

‘A model for what is possible’

Since 2016, ATI, of which Georgetown University is a founding member, has worked to ensure colleges with high graduation rates increase their enrollment of high-achieving, low- to middle-income students, who are less likely to graduate from college than their higher-income peers. Through ATI—which is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, Ithaka S+R, and the Aspen Institute—the initiative’s 140 member colleges and universities pledge to work toward this goal, and recently developed strategies to guide the next stage of their work, recognizing the impacts of, and lessons learned from, the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although challenges remain, most of ATI’s 140 member colleges and universities—a diverse group, which include flagship institutions, Ivy League universities, and recent members like Baruch College—have made progress in achieving their specific lower-income enrollment goals.

Hoping to “show what can be achieved at all types of institutions with prioritization and targeted approaches,” ATI’s latest annual report highlights the drivers of “exemplary progress” at its 28 high-flier institutions, calling out their investments in need-based financial aid, new recruitment approaches, and evidence-based programs that boost student success. The Times, for instance, points to Baruch’s One Stop Shop (BOSS), which supports students during tasks that might otherwise knock them off course, like completing financial aid forms or enrolling in courses.

Related: Undergraduate enrollment rises for first time since the pandemic >

“The economic fallout from the pandemic has made it even more important for schools across the country to adopt innovative new ways to attract and retain students from underrepresented backgrounds,” Nick Watson of Bloomberg Philanthropies said during the February celebration of Baruch’s ATI recognition. “Baruch is a model for what is possible when the work of higher education is student-centered.”

Increasing access and affordability

In September 2023, the Times ranked Baruch College as the third most economically diverse selective college in the country, according to its College Access Index, which tracks changes in the enrollment of Pell-Grant recipients at four-year institutions with a graduation rate of at least 75%. When looking at only public colleges, Baruch ranked as the most economically diverse on that index. 

Around 75% of Baruch undergraduates are students of color, and 63% of Baruch students receive Pell Grants, according to ATI. The cost of attending Baruch is less than $2,000 for low-income students. With the help of financial aid and the Baruch College Fund, 80% of graduates leave college without federal student loan debt. Baruch’s six-year graduation rate is 74%, above the national average of 62.2%. The average starting salary for Baruch graduates is $62,000.

“We know that Baruch is showing the way for its graduates to make more money, have more economic security, create more jobs, earn more graduate degrees, participate in civic life, live longer, and be more likely to be optimistic about their future—and that’s just the beginning,” Dan Porterfield, the Aspen Institute’s president and CEO said during the February event.

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