Charter School System Embraces New Approach to College Counseling

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About 40 percent of undergraduates at four-year institutions do not complete a degree within six years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. And the number is even higher for low-income students.

One charter school system wants to change that statistic for their alumni. They have retooled their college counseling program and instead of focusing solely on getting into college, they now address what it takes to graduate from college.

Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) schools decided to change their counseling program after a 2011 report revealed that only 31 percent of KIPP’s alumni graduate from four-year colleges within six years.

The Center for American Progress recently detailed the changes the school system has made.

To kick things off, KIPP changed the name of its counseling program from KIPP to College to KIPP Through College and Career. But this wasn’t a change in name only.

The charter schools ensure a small counselor-to-student ratio of 1-to-50.

During students’ junior year of high school, counselors look at specific student needs and interests to build a list of schools that would be a good fit. KIPP counselors work to prioritize schools that have high minority graduation rates and they work closely with 80 colleges and universities that have made a commitment to helping first-generation students get to and through college.

Then a senior year seminar course gives students an opportunity to get all their college questions answered and provides them with in-class time to work on applications.

And the new program doesn’t stop when students get their high school diploma. The school uses its alumni database to match new KIPP graduates with college juniors and seniors who can help guide them through the transition to college.

The college graduation rate for KIPP alumni is now 38 percent.

Ashley Dobson is NACAC’s communications manager for content and social media. You can reach her at adobson@nacacnet.org.

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