Today, the American Talent Initiative (ATI) and College Greenlight released a new report that highlights how community-based organizations (CBOs) and colleges can partner to expand access and opportunity for students from lower-income backgrounds. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, and especially now, CBOs provide a leg up to tens of thousands of talented lower-income students nationwide who aspire to pursue a postsecondary education, but face new and long-standing barriers to realizing those aspirations.

The report, Better Together: Expanding Access and Opportunity Through Community-Based Organization and College Partnerships, is anchored by a three-part framework that colleges and universities can use to develop and strengthen their partnerships with CBOs and create opportunities for lower-income students. The three-part framework outlines a process by which institutions can:  

  1. Initiate strong partnerships with CBOs, building on aligned priorities and a shared vision for success,
  2. Implement strong partnerships with CBOs, prioritizing dedicated communication channels, points of contact, and collaboration opportunities, and
  3. Improve strong partnerships with CBOs, using data and other forms of feedback to continually evaluate effectiveness. 

This framework is based on College Greenlight’s eight years of experience in this work, ATI’s practice-based research with its 131 member institutions, and interviews with admissions staff from a variety of institutions. To provide examples of how to put this framework into practice, the report includes two case studies, one from the University of Michigan and one from the University of Richmond, highlighting their efforts to cultivate and scale CBO partnership strategies. The link to the full report, including the CBO-College partnership framework and the case studies, is available on the ATI website.

To put this research into practice, ATI and College Greenlight will host a virtual convening on August 27 to bring ATI members and national CBOs together develop new partnerships in order to promote better access to high-graduation-rate colleges and universities for talented students from lower-income and underrepresented backgrounds. As its members prepare to undergo an admissions cycle like no other, ATI will continue to identify and elevate best practices in maintaining and expanding recruitment pipelines, whether through CBO partnerships or other means.

ATI – a collaboration between Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program, and Ithaka S+R – is an alliance of high-graduation-rate colleges and universities committed to attracting, enrolling, and graduating an additional 50,000 talented, low- and moderate-income students at these top institutions by 2025. In just three years, the 327 high-graduation rate institutions eligible to participate in the initiative have already added more than 20,000 Pell students.

For more information about the Better Together report, please email Benjamin Fresquez at