By Richard Barth, KIPP Foundation CEO
Today, the KIPP Foundation released the results from a survey of KIPP alumni in college. What did we learn? I have a few key takeaways, and some thoughts.
This year, KIPP reached a milestone: over 10,000 alumni in college. Since 2011, we have made public the graduation rates for all college-age KIPP students who have either completed eighth grade or begun ninth grade at KIPP. KIPP’s four-year college completion rate is above the national average for all students and four times the average for students of similar economic backgrounds. While many of our alumni are making great strides, they also face significant obstacles on the path to earning a degree. We decided to conduct a survey both to better understand the specific hurdles our alumni face and to raise public awareness about the challenges first-generation and low-income students experience in college.
In November, nearly 3,000 of our alumni who are enrolled in college responded to an online survey asking about the financial and career-access obstacles they face. We deeply appreciate the willingness of these alumni to step up and speak out about the reality of their lives as college students. We focused on four main areas of inquiry:
- How are KIPP alumni managing the cost of tuition, living expenses, and more?
- How are alumni balancing the need to work and earn money with the desire to graduate on time?
- Do alumni have access to jobs on campus or during the summer that will help them pursue careers after graduation?
- What are the other financial constraints that may impede our alumni from graduating from college?
In looking at the survey responses, we see four important themes:
- Work study access. Among KIPP alumni who work while in school and who qualify for work study, over 40 percent have not yet found a work study job. Students at less-competitive colleges had a harder time finding work study jobs.
- Career-relevant work experience. The majority of our alumni had jobs or internships last summer, but less than 30 percent said their job was aligned to their career aspirations.
- Food insecurity. Nearly 60 percent of KIPP alumni said they worry about running out of food before they can afford to buy more. More than 40 percent said they have missed meals in order to pay for books, school fees, and other expenses.
- Financial support of family members. Nearly 25 percent of alumni said they sent money home to support at least one family member. The proportion was slightly higher at 2-year schools than at 4-year schools.
These findings remind me once again of the remarkable resilience of our alumni. I am also inspired by the support and guidance that our alumni receive from their parents, family members, KIPP Through College counselors, and former teachers all the way to graduation. At the same time, we need to do more to alleviate the burdens experienced by first generation college students. It is incumbent on all of us —K-12 educators, colleges and universities administrators, policymakers, and entrepreneurs—to innovate, and to create better pathways to opportunity.
KIPP’s college partners across the country are tackling many of these challenges, and are collaborating with each other to find answers. As we plan our second annual College Partner Convening for this coming summer, we are eager to continue these conversations and find better solutions to the challenges that our alumni face in college.
I am optimistic that, with our shared will and experience, we can continue to improve the pathway to and through college for our KIPP alumni and for all low-income American children and families.