3 Things We’ve Learned about Student Success in College

By Richard Barth, KIPP Foundation CEO

We know that college graduation rates are just too low for first-generation college-goers and students of color. For the past five years, KIPP has been partnering with colleges and universities across the country to help change that reality. In that time, we’ve learned some valuable lessons about how best to support students, including our KIPPsters. KIPP School Summit, our annual gathering of KIPP staff and partners, provided the opportunity to take our learning one step further.

On July 24th and 25th, we brought together college and university presidents, higher education professionals, and K-12 leaders, with one goal: to tackle the unique challenges that face first-generation college-goers. We are so grateful to the 50+ colleges and 10+ college access and philanthropic organizations who attended our first College Presidents Convening (view list of participants here).

A sentiment that echoed throughout the convening was that by working together, rather than in silos, higher education and K-12 can go farther, faster. In other words, we know we are truly better together.

Three additional themes came out of our collaboration.

#1: Increasing college access and persistence for first-generation students will dramatically improve our country’s talent pipeline.


“And because of this education, though I was once written off,
I can now write my own story.”

Donnell Bailey
KIPP New Orleans alumnus
Franklin & Marshall College senior


“There’s so much talent in the communities that are served by the KIPP network of schools, and we certainly don’t want any of that talent to go to waste.”

Beverly Tatum, PhD.
President Emerita
Spelman College

#2: Belonging matters for first-generation students’ persistence and success.


“Students who feel a sense of belonging succeed.”

Terrell Strayhorn, PhD.
Professor & Director
The Ohio State University


“We teach one key message… Difficulties are normal and they get better with time as you come to get integrated in your campus… With the belonging intervention… we see about a 10 point gain [in persistence.]”

David Yeager, PhD.
University of Texas-Austin

#3: Affordability is key for higher education access and success.


“One of the challenges for the notion of equal opportunity in America is that access to higher education and returns to higher education depend on both income and race in America.”

Catharine Bond Hill, PhD.
Vassar College


“At the colleges and universities that have a 70-percent-plus graduation rate, there’s about 275 of them, only 22 percent of students receive Pell grants. Forty-eight states now invest less in public higher education than they did before the recession.”

Dan Porterfield, PhD.
Franklin & Marshall College

This is just the beginning of the learnings we’re going to share. We’re launching a blog series to highlight the big ideas that matter for first-generation success in college. Over the coming months, leaders from KIPP partner colleges and universities will share what they’re doing to support students, in the hopes of expanding this work beyond specific institutions. There are a lot of impactful ideas out there, so watch this space!

Find out what else took place at KIPP School Summit 2016 > 


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