The Yes We Must Coalition strives to increase degree attainment of low-income students by promoting the work of small, independent, not-for-profit colleges and universities and others committed to this purpose.

We are building momentum for collaboration among member institutions that crosses institutional identity in order to understand what is being done right, what more can be done, and how an effective, collective voice can be developed to promote the success of low-income/1st generation students.

With support from foundations including the Walmart Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, and Lumina Foundation, the Coalition created a strategic plan and held a first national conference, Fulfilling Our Responsibility: Higher Education for the New Student Majority, in 2014. Members valued the open and honest sharing of ideas, programs and challenges. Conference attendees described the conference as “an amazing opportunity to meet people and create connections to continue our discussions" and observed that “it was validating to hear about what other people are doing in similar institutions with challenges we all are facing.” Input from students and young alums was solicited in order to learn their perspectives on what programs make the most difference for their success.  Such collaboration is on-going and characterizes the goals and culture of the Coalition.

More recently, in 2015, we held a members-only Institute, Collaborating To Fulfill Our Responsibility to the New Student Majority, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation. Thirty-two member institutions sent teams composed of the president, a senior academic administrator, a senior finance or enrollment management person and a faculty member. Once again, the format of the Institute encouraged discussions among college teams and similar-position groups to explore ideas for collaborative projects to better serve low-income students. As at the conference, attendees valued the opportunity to come together to work with colleagues on common issues. Several project ideas evolved from these discussions, and cross-campus groups are currently working together to develop and implement them. The Coalition is providing assistance with coordination, finding funding, and project implementation.

Projects underway include an Online Consortium whereby students enrolled at any member institution can take online courses offered by any other member institution. A longitudinal data project has completed the first round of data collection on students entering in fall 2015. A Student Exchange Program for all member students to enjoy a semester or summer on another member campus has been established and planning is underway for a Faculty Exchange Program. We are pleased The Teagle Foundation awarded the Coalition two planning grants for collaborative projects to streamline curriculum and to​infuse Liberal Arts into our Business programs. The collaborative work of the Coalition is on-going, and members are committed to working together to strengthen our students and our institutions.

The Coalition is in the process of planning a second national conference to be held October 24–26, 2018, in Austin, Texas.

The Coalition has earned national recognition for its advocacy for low-income/1st generation students and is a strong voice on their behalf. It is a member of the Secretariat of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) and is an affiliate of The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and of the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). During the Obama administration, Coalition members met with the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education and individuals from the White House Domestic Policy Council. Updates by the Senior Policy Advisor for Higher Education to the Secretary and Under Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education and the Executive Director of the National College Access Network were presented at the first national conference.

Recognizing that all constituencies of a college or university have an impact on student success, the Coalition reaches out to the chief academic, development, finance and student life officers and others as well as to the presidents of its member institutions in order to promote constructive dialogue about issues faced by those in similar roles and how they can better support the students.

The Coalition welcomes new members.