Penn Partners With KIPP Schools to Promote College Completion in Underserved Communities

PHILADELPHIA -– The KIPP Foundation announced today that it will partner with the University of Pennsylvania in an effort to increase college-completion rates for underserved KIPP students nationwide. This is KIPP’s first college partnership with an Ivy League university and its 10th partnership with an institution of higher learning since the fall of 2011.

Through this partnership, the University projects enrolling 12-15 students from KIPP, or the Knowledge Is Power Program, per year who meet admissions requirements, beginning in the 2013-14 school year. This community of KIPP students will support each other on their journey through college. Because Penn has a need-blind admissions policy, the University will address the demonstrated financial need of all KIPP students who enroll. 

Penn’s partnership with KIPP is part of the University’s long-standing commitment to diversity and excellence. Penn seeks foremost to build a student body of highly talented individuals and believes that having a diverse student body enriches the educational experience of every student and broadens the leadership pipeline of graduates. This partnership is one way in which the University aims to engage outstanding yet underserved students with high potential who might not otherwise have the opportunity to go to Penn.

"Making a Penn education available to talented, hard-working students from every walk of life is the cornerstone of our efforts to increase educational access," Penn President Amy Gutmann said. "A partnership between Penn and KIPP is a natural fit, and we could not be more supportive of KIPP's mission to prepare and help enable students in underserved communities to reach their highest potential."

Penn's no-loan financial-aid policy for all eligible undergraduates enables the University to enroll the most talented students, regardless of socioeconomic status. In FY13, the University will expand its undergraduate financial-aid budget by more than 12 percent to $181 million. 

KIPP’s connection to the University of Pennsylvania is especially resonant, as KIPP co-founder Mike Feinberg is a Penn alumnus (Class of 1991). Feinberg founded KIPP with Dave Levin in Houston in 1994; since then, KIPP has grown into a national network of 109 college-preparatory public charter schools, serving 33,000 students in 20 states and the District of Columbia. More than 85 percent of KIPP’s students are from low-income families, and more than 95 percent are students of color.  According to a 2010 study by Mathematica Policy Research, KIPP middle schools are achieving academic gains in math and reading that are statistically significant and substantial.

“As a Penn alum, I am truly proud to partner with my alma mater to help get our KIPP students to and through college,” Feinberg said. “Penn has long been a leader in promoting both diversity and excellence in higher education. With this commitment, our KIPPsters will have yet another reason to continue to work hard and dream big.”

According to U.S. Census data, 30 percent of all Americans aged 25-29 have earned a college degree. For students in the bottom economic quartile, only 8 percent complete college by their mid-20s. By contrast, 36 percent of KIPP students have completed a four-year college after finishing eighth grade at a KIPP middle school 10 or more years ago — more than the average for all students across all income levels and four times the rate for students from low-income families. Through initiatives across the KIPP network, including college partnerships with institutions like Penn, KIPP aims to reach a 75 percent college completion rate for its students — roughly the same rate at which the nation’s highest-income students are graduating from college.

Philadelphia is home to four KIPP charter schools. Founded by Teach For America alumnus Marc Mannella, KIPP Philadelphia Schools currently enrolls 931 students in Philadelphia and plan to grow to 10 schools serving 4,400 students by 2019. A handful of Penn students has participated in the work-study program at KIPP Philadelphia Schools in past years, and this partnership aims to increase the number of Penn work-study students at KIPP in the future.   

“Dr. Gutmann has long been a leader in creating a student body at Penn that is as diverse as America itself,” Mannella said.  “Through this partnership, our students at KIPP Philadelphia Schools will get the chance to attend one of the country’s best universities, right in their own backyard. Not only that, but we also have the opportunity to bring more Penn students to KIPP as tutors, so that they can be role models for our students and see firsthand what it’s like to be a public school student in North and West Philadelphia.”  

Penn is the 10th institution to join KIPP’s national college partnership initiative.  KIPP’s other partners are Colby College, Davidson College, the University of Houston, Franklin and Marshall College, San Jose State University, Mercy College, Tulane University, Morehouse College and Spelman College.

About KIPP

KIPP – the Knowledge Is Power Program – is a national network of open-enrollment, college-preparatory public charter schools with a track record of preparing students in underserved communities for success in college and in life.  KIPP was founded in Houston in 1994 and has grown to 109 schools serving more than 33,000 students in 20 states and Washington, D.C.  More than 95 percent of students enrolled in KIPP schools are African-American or Hispanic/Latino, and more than 85 percent qualify for the federal free and reduced-price meals program. To date, more than 85 percent of students who have graduated from KIPP middle schools have matriculated to college.