About the Yes We Must Coalition


The Yes We Must Coalition strives to increase degree attainment of students from low-income backgrounds by promoting the work of independent, not-for-profit colleges and universities where undergraduate enrollment of Pell-eligible students is 50% or more.

Focus on Collaboration

We are facilitating collaboration among member institutions that crosses individual institutional identity in order to understand what is being done right, what more can be done together, and how an effective, collective voice can be developed to promote the success of low-income/1st generation students. Members value the open and honest sharing of strategies, data, opportunities and challenges.

With support from foundations, including the Walmart Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, and Lumina Foundation, the Coalition created a strategic plan and in 2014 held a first national conference, Fulfilling Our Responsibility: Higher Education for the New Student Majority. 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.

We find great work being done jointly between our institutions to advance the completion agenda and access to funds, particularly, that we would not have been able to secure alone.
Helen J. Streubert, President, College of Saint Elizabeth

In 2015 we held a members-only Institute, Collaborating To Fulfill Our Responsibility to the New Student Majority, in Roanoke, VA, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation. 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. Nine project ideas evolved from these discussions, and cross-campus groups worked together to develop the projects. The Coalition is providing assistance with coordination, finding funding, and project implementation. The collaborative work of the Coalition is on-going, and members are committed to working together to strengthen our students and our institutions.

Our second national conference, Education for the New Student Majority: Collaborations, Innovations and Strategies for Completion, was held in Austin, TX, in October 2018. The format of panel presentations and roundtable discussions again provided attendees with opportunities to share and learn about the collaborative projects underway and the positive difference these projects are making in the college experience of low-income students. Attendees evaluated the conference highly for providing information relevant to their work and for connecting them with colleagues with a similar focus on the success of students from low-income backgrounds. Conference sponsors included the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, College Possible, Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation, Greater Texas Foundation, The Kresge Foundation and The Teagle Foundation.


The Coalition continues to earn national recognition and be a strong, collective voice for its members and their students in discussions and policy-making about higher education. It is a member of the Secretariat of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) and is recognized by The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC). Coalition members have met with the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education and individuals from the White House Domestic Policy Council during the Obama administration.


Conference picRecognizing that all constituencies of a college or university have an impact on student success, the Coalition reaches out to the chief academic, development, finance, enrollment management, human resources, communications, student life, environmental safety, campus security and ADA officers, as well as library directors, registrars, and financial aid directors, in addition 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 encourages data-based evaluation of all programs put in place to help students reach graduation. As part of its goal to share information among its members and with non-members, the Coalition has recently published two reports:

  • High Impact Practices and Low-Income Student Success: What Works? [view]
  • Listening to Our Low-Income Students: Seniors Reflect on Their College Experience [view]

In addition, the Coalition regularly publishes a Newsletter and periodically hosts webinars that address issues related to challenges and successes for low-income students.

The Coalition welcomes new members.