Linking the KIPP brand to major colleges will no doubt help its schools compete in the public education marketplace. D.C. parents weighing their school choices could be drawn to charter schools that advertise a college connection.
Many public schools, regular and charter, have strong relations with colleges that are not formalized in a signed memorandum of understanding. Alexandra Pardo, executive director of the Thurgood Marshall Academy, said graduates from that D.C. charter school have found success at the University of Vermont and George Mason University, among others. The KIPP pacts, Pardo said, are “a strategy worth exploring.”
KIPP co-founder Mike Feinberg said he hopes others follow suit. “It would be a great problem for the country to have,” he said, if more high schools contacted colleges and said: “Wait a minute. Where's our slice of this pie? How about us?” Feinberg, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, reached out to that Ivy League school to strike a partnership.
Eric J. Furda, dean of admissions at Pennsylvania, said the university will target 12 to 15 KIPP students a year as prospects. Penn now has seven students who are KIPP alumni, according to a KIPP tally.
“Yes, we’re going to enroll students,” Furda said. “But more broadly defined, Penn’s overall outreach efforts will be elevated through our relationship with KIPP.” He said it is “a national program with anchors in important geographic and demographic areas,” such as Texas.
About 230 KIPP alumni — graduates of KIPP high schools as well as students who went through a KIPP middle school but graduated from a non-KIPP high school — attend the 20 partner colleges. The partnerships aim to recruit 225 to 275 KIPP alumni to the 20 colleges in the coming year.
Under the agreements, colleges will track the progress of KIPP alumni and provide mentoring and other support.
At Trinity Washington, a Catholic university serving mainly women, Yasmeen Newman, 20, is a communications student who attended KIPP’s D.C. KEY Academy, a middle school. Newman, from Southeast Washington, said she is the youngest of eight children in a family of modest means. KIPP, she said, “opens the eyes of young kids and lets them know college is a possibility for them.”
Jazmin Wright, 21, another Trinity student with KIPP D.C. KEY roots, also credited those middle school teachers.
“I just have them in my head,” Wright said. “I’m going to graduate. It’s embedded in me. They encoded it in my brain.”
She said she has a 3-year-old daughter, Jayla, who will start in a KIPP preschool program in January.
Trinity President Patricia McGuire, whose school draws a large number of D.C. students, said she hopes the partnership will expand Trinity’s applicant pool. “Being part of the KIPP network validates us and opens up some new markets that we might not reach ourselves,” she said.
McGuire said she also is a fan of the “work hard, be nice” slogan.
“That’s a great philosophy,” McGuire said. “If we could have a few of those T-shirts walking around campus, that wouldn’t hurt anybody.”