Reach Higher Recognized for Pioneering Application of AI to Improve College Access

Developed in partnership with college chatbot developer AdmitHub, Reach Higher was awarded Michelson 20MM Foundation’s inaugural Catalyst Grant

Washington, DC — December 13, 2018 — Reach Higher, which seeks to inspire and assist underserved students to continue their education beyond high school, has received the Michelson 20MM Foundation’s inaugural Catalyst Grant in recognition of its pioneering collaboration with AdmitHub, an AI startup that develops chatbots to support college access and admissions. Started by former First Lady Michelle Obama during her time at the White House, Reach Higher continues to work to build and create a college-going culture for students around the country, especially first-generation and low-income students who might not see themselves as college material.

“The partnership between AdmitHub and Reach Higher will help provide college-bound students with the guidance they need, anytime, day or night,” says Dr. Gary K. Michelson, founder of the Michelson 20MM Foundation. “We are honored for the opportunity to support the efforts of former First Lady Michelle Obama in helping students continue their education and training in order to secure a brighter future.”

Entering postsecondary education can be a challenging and daunting process, especially for underserved and first-generation college students. To help these students navigate the transition to college, the Reach Higher initiative launched Up Next, a peer-to-peer texting program that utilizes technology developed by AdmitHub, which creates conversational AI that enables colleges and universities to provide students with witty automated responses, targeted nudges, and a natural escalation process for mentors and advisors to deliver 24/7 support to college applicants. Research suggests that by supporting students throughout the enrollment process, conversational AI can reduce summer melt by more than 20 percent.

“Evidence has shown that a text-based guidance system reaches students where they are, on their mobile devices, and can dramatically increase college enrollment and persistence,” says Don Yu, Chief Operating Officer for Reach Higher. “Our virtual assistant will be able to respond and adapt to approximately 80% of the questions students might ask about the college-going process via our Better Make Room Facebook page, giving our live college advisors more time to help with complex inquiries.”

Conceived as a novel approach to fast grantmaking, Catalyst Grants distribute awards up to $25,000 to winning applicants in just fifteen (15) business days. The grants are open to non-profit institutions and for-profit organizations that demonstrate high-alignment with the objectives of Michelson 20MM. Awards are reserved for proposals that can be fully funded through the grant such as launching dormant ideas or actualizing a new proof of concept. AdmitHub’s latest venture with Reach Higher serves as the ideal use case for Catalyst Grants.

AdmitHub CEO Andrew Magliozzi sees the Reach Higher Initiative as the perfect application for his company’s advanced AI solution. “With the funding provided by the Michelson Catalyst Grant, we can tailor our technology specifically for student users taking part in the Reach Higher Initiative, giving them the support they need to successfully transition into postsecondary learning.”

About Reach Higher

Reach Higher is an initiative started by former First Lady Michelle Obama during her time at the White House. First launched in 2014, Reach Higher works to inspire every student in America to take charge of their future by completing their education past high school, whether at a professional training program, a community college, or a four-year college or university. Through its Better Make Room and UpNext campaigns, Reach Higher has celebrated more than a million students going to college, championed the school counseling community, and nudged hundreds of thousands of first-generation and low-income students to complete their college and FAFSA applications. To learn more, visit

About the Michelson 20MM Foundation

The Michelson 20MM Foundation supports and invests in leading-edge entrepreneurs, technologies, and initiatives with the potential to improve postsecondary access, affordability, and efficacy. Michelson 20MM was founded thanks to the generous support of renowned spinal surgeon Dr. Gary K. Michelson and his wife, Alya Michelson. To learn more, visit

About AdmitHub

Founded in 2014, AdmitHub is an edtech company committed to fostering college success with conversational artificial intelligence. AdmitHub’s virtual assistants provide on-demand assistance via chat by gathering data, sending reminders, answering questions, surveying students, and connecting students to appropriate advisors. Currently, AdmitHub has 40+ university partnerships focusing on recruiting prospects, yielding admits, and retaining enrolled students.

*Disclosure: Michelson 20MM is an investor in AdmitHub.

Michelle Obama’s college access campaign that celebrates higher education and elevates the voices of Gen-Z students. @BetterMakeRoom →

Michelle Obama’s college access campaign that celebrates higher education and elevates the voices of Gen-Z students. @BetterMakeRoom →