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AT&T relaunches Aspire program with quarter-billion dollar commitment to education

Updated Dec 19th, 2018 7:51PM EST

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AT&T on Monday announced that it is relaunching its AT&T Aspire program designed to help students graduate from high school and prepare for college and careers. AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson announced the news during a keynote address at this year’s Building a Grad Nation Summit, where he revealed that the nation’s No.2 wireless carrier has pledged $250 million over the next five years to its AT&T Aspire program. “AT&T Aspire works toward an America where every student graduates high school equipped with the knowledge and skills to strengthen the nation’s workforce,” Stephenson said. The program will include a wide range of efforts, many of which will focus on providing under-served communities with technology and more modern educational tools. AT&T’s full press release follows below along with a video about the program.

AT&T Announces Quarter-Billion-Dollar Expansion Of Education Commitment

‘Socially Innovative’ Approach To Increase High School Graduates, Boost Workplace Readiness; New Study: Graduation Rates Improve, But Dropouts Remain Too High

Washington, District of Columbia, March 19, 2012

As access to skilled workers becomes increasingly vital to the U.S. economy, AT&T is launching a quarter-billion-dollar campaign to help more students graduate from high school ready for careers and college, and to ensure the country is better prepared to meet global competition.

AT&T Aspire, already among the most significant U.S. corporate educational initiatives awith more than $100 million invested since 2008, will tackle high school success and college/career readiness for students at-risk of dropping out of high school through a much larger, “socially innovative” approach. Social innovation goes beyond traditional philanthropy – which typically involves only charitable giving – to also engage people and technology to bring different approaches, new solutions and added resources to challenging social problems.

The greatly expanded effort centers on a new, $250 million financial commitment planned over 5 years. AT&T Aspire will build on that commitment by using technology to connect with students in new and more effective ways, such as with interactive gamification, Web-based content and social media. The company will also tap the innovation engine of the AT&T Foundry to look for fresh or atypical approaches to educational obstacles. Finally, AT&T Aspire will capitalize on the power of personal connections in the form of mentoring, internships and other voluntary efforts that involve many of AT&T’s approximately 260,000 employees. The Aspire effort already has impacted more than one million U.S. high school students, helping them prepare for success in the workplace and college.

“AT&T Aspire works toward an America where every student graduates high school equipped with the knowledge and skills to strengthen the nation’s workforce,” AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said while announcing the extended commitment during a keynote address at the second annual Building a Grad Nation Summit. The Washington, D.C., event convened by America’s Promise Alliance (, Civic Enterprises (, The Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University (, and the Alliance for Excellent Education ( brings together nearly 1,200 U.S. leaders to discuss progress and challenges in ending the high school dropout crisis.

Lacking a high school degree is a serious issue in the United States, where one in four students – more than 1 million each year – drops out, according to a March 19, 2012, report by Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center, America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education. AT&T is the lead sponsor of this report. Education experts believe that the lack of a high school degree significantly worsens job prospects in a rapidly changing, increasingly sophisticated job market.

And, if dropouts find jobs, they earn less. On average, a high school dropout earns 25 percent less during the course of his or her lifetime compared with a high school graduate and 57 percent less than a college graduate with a bachelor’s degree.[1]

The situation poses a serious risk to American competitiveness as corporations struggle to find talent, especially in the math and sciences fields. The dropout rate, along with inadequate training and education, is keeping many high-paying Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) jobs from being filled. And the situation is expected to worsen as STEM jobs grow a projected 17 percent by 2018. Workers in these positions typically earn 26 percent more than those in non-STEM positions.[2]

Although the problem is serious, there are signs of progress according to the report issued today:

  • The high school graduation rate increased by 3.5 percentage points nationally from 2001 to 2009.
  • In 2001, the rate was 72.0 percent; by 2009, it had risen to 75.5 percent. From 2002 to 2009, six states experienced large gains in their graduation rates; 14 states made moderate gains; andfour states made modest gains. (Note: 2002 was the first year that state data became available.)
  • And the number of “dropout factory” high schools (a high school where 12th-grade enrollment is 60 percent or less than the 9th-grade enrollment three years previously) dropped from 2,007 to 1,550 from 2002 to 2010 – a 23 percent decrease.

The new and expanded AT&T commitment builds on the work AT&T Aspire has completed in the last four years. AT&T and the AT&T Foundation have invested more than $100 million in Aspire since 2008 – and more than $923 million in education since 1984. AT&T and the AT&T Foundation’s total community giving amounted to $2.2 billion from 1984 to 2011.

AT&T Aspire will build on that success by focusing on:

  • Technology
    • Collaborating with innovators, educators and other companies at the AT&T Foundry innovation centers ( to blaze new ground in developing solutions to improve education. For example, the company will sponsor challenges or contests for mobile application developers to create cutting-edge solutions to complex problems in our educational system. A June “hackathon” in Palo Alto, Calif., is the first scheduled education/technology development event.
    • Expanding strategic alliances with organizations that specialize in developing and marketing new interactive learning tools which better engage today’s students.
    • Incorporating gamification, the Internet, video and social media into educational programs.
    • Enabling students in underserved communities to explore careers before graduation through internships in areas related to 21st-century skills.
    • Collaborating on a revolutionary nationwide initiative with GameDesk (, pioneers in game-based and digital learning, aimed at transforming traditional instruction and equalizing education for all students.
  • People
    • Because AT&T employees have asked for more opportunities to engage with students and contribute to their success, AT&T will launch the Aspire Mentoring Academy later this year. The academy will enable employees to help students at risk of dropping out of school succeed in the classroom and in life.
    • Building on the success of AT&T’s first Job Shadow initiative ( with Junior Achievement (, the next evolution for Job Shadow will create a program in which employee-student teams learn work/life skills, explore real business problems and form lasting relationships. The initial Job Shadow initiative already has involved 100,000 U.S. students.
    • AT&T employees will provide skills-based mentoring, which pairs them with students based on shared interests to encourage and support career path development.
    • Inspiring more AT&T customers, companies and stakeholders to step up to the challenge of addressing the education crisis.
  • Communities
    • Deepening the financial commitment to local education-focused groups that deliver results.
    • Especially groups that embrace social innovation, focus on 21st-century skills or focus on STEM disciplines for students in underserved communities.
    • Making local contributions to community organizations that specialize in helping students and improving the quality of education.
    • For details on Aspire grant applications, visit  and click on the “Aspire Local Impact RFP” option.

“It will take all of us working together and supporting the hard work of the education community to continue to improve graduation rates and preparedness for careers and college,” Stephenson said. “American business has an enormous stake in the success of our students. It’s time to commit more innovation and resources to the task.”

Zach Epstein
Zach Epstein Executive Editor

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content. Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment.

His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.