KIPP Grads Will Head to UPenn in New Partnership

University of Pennsylvania is partnering up with the successful charter school operator KIPP Foundation in order to streamline the path for current and future KIPP graduates towards college graduation. Although this is the tenth such partnership with an institution of higher learning for KIPP, this is the first time the foundation is partnering with an Ivy League school.

As part of the agreement between the university and KIPP, UPenn will commit to admitting between 12 and 15 KIPP graduates who meet the admissions requirement starting in 2013-14 school year. The university is further committing to assist the students with a financial aid package in recognition of the fact that KIPP schools most frequently serve students who come from low-income families.

“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.”

This partnership is a bit of a welcome-home for Mike Feinberg, who co-founded Knowledge Is Power Program with Dave Levin in Houston in 1994, three years after himself graduating from University of Pennsylvania. In the 18 years since then, KIPP network has expanded to encompass 109 schools in 20 states that each function with the goal of producing college-ready graduates and that serve a student body that is 85% low-income and 95% minority.

Those 18 years have seen a lot of success. While the U.S. Census found that only 8% of the kids from the demographics that typically make up KIPP schools could expect to earn a four-year college degree, 36% of students who finished 8th grade in a KIPP charter went on to graduate from a four-year college. More impressive still, that represents a 6% improvement over the percentage of the entire population of the United States between the ages of 25 and 29 who have a higher education four-year diploma.

The statistic isn’t surprising in light of the fact that despite serving a severely underprivileged population, 85% of KIPP students enroll in a college program upon graduating. That is why the founders of KIPP view the UPenn partnership a natural next step in a process that is about keeping the door of opportunity open to those on whom it has, in the past, been frequently shut.

“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.”