What We’re Learning In the Era of COVID-19: College Enrollment

First in our college enrollment series, we recognize that health, financial, social, and educational disparities have been exacerbated by the pandemic and continued racial injustice. But, the KIPP Public Schools Class of 2020 has remained steadfast. Here is their story.

COVID-19 and College Enrollment

The past year has been one of the most difficult in memory across the country, and at KIPP – for our students, alumni, families, staff, and communities. Over the last 15 months, we have responded in communities across the country as the health, financial, social, and educational disparities that stem from longstanding systemic inequities have been exacerbated by the impacts of the pandemic and continued racial injustice.

During these challenging times, we at KIPP have remained steadfast in our mission that “Together with families and communities, we create joyful, academically excellent schools that prepare students with the skills and confidence to pursue the paths they choose—college, career, and beyond—so they can lead fulfilling lives and build a more just world.”

We are incredibly proud of the KIPP Class of 2020, who have displayed so much courage in the face of many obstacles. The story of the KIPP students in the Class of 2020 is still being written, and we are committed to having their backs as they pursue their dreams.

How We're Responding

During the national shelter-in-place last spring, the KIPP Forward (formerly KIPP Through College) Nashville team focused on dealing with the changes in admissions and financial aid processes to help their graduating seniors enroll in the fall. Read about their approach.

Even with the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, our KIPP community has rallied together to support our students and alumni in making it through college and following through on their post-secondary pathways.

 

  • We built from strength: our excellent college and postsecondary counseling. Within KIPP, we have robust, student-and-family-centered, data-informed counseling and high-school-to-postsecondary transition supports. These services were in place before COVID-19, and we’ve maintained them during the pandemic. This has been critical to supporting KIPP students and their families, starting junior year or earlier, as they plan and prepare for what’s next.
  • We expanded access to microgrants. Through the generosity of KIPP supporters, graduating seniors were able to access $1 million in last-dollar financial support to:
    • Pay for summer college courses, an action tied to stronger college matriculation
    • Close any financial gaps that might prevent them from enrolling
    • Access technology needed for virtual learning
    • Address students’ other personal and education expenses that were impeding either enrollment or persistence

Our regions have made 1,386 awards to 726 students and alumni, with awards most commonly being applied to course supplies and materials, tuition, and food. To-date, 76 percent of awards have gone to alumni pursuing a bachelor’s degree, 10 percent to those pursuing an associate degree, and three percent to those enrolled in certification programs.

Since we launched the microgrant initiative this summer, persistence and graduation rates remain high, at 91 percent for all alumni who have received awards.

  • We expanded access to nudge texting. Prior to the pandemic, we had piloted nudge texting with a small group of KIPP alumni, as a vehicle to influence mindsets and behaviors associated with college persistence. In response to COVID, we accelerated our expansion of the nudge texting program. Over 5,400 KIPP students have been “nudged” to date, and we are in the process of expanding to reach even more alumni, as well as juniors and seniors in high school. Over the summer and through the 2020-21 school year, 43 percent of participating alumni engaged with our nudge bot, KIPPer.
  • We leveraged our college partnerships. Six KIPP college partners and counting have agreed to re-extend offers of fall admission to Class of 2020 alumni who were admitted last year but did not end up enrolling in a bachelor’s degree program. These partners include Colorado State University Fort Collins, Dillard University, Georgia State University, Lycoming College, Middle Tennessee State University, and Texas State University San Marcos.

College Enrollment in 2020

A confluence of factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as social and economic unrest had a dramatic effect on the college-going rates of the Class of 2020.

KIPP Enrollment

KIPP high schools’ college matriculation rates were down 11 percent between 2019 and 2020.

National Enrollment

The high school class of 2020 experienced a seven percent decline in fall college enrollments.

Unequal Outcomes

Consistent with other health, economic, and educational impacts of COVID-19, the impact on low-income communities and communities of color was disproportionate.

KIPP College Enrollment for the Class of 2020

KIPP high school graduates in the Class of 2020 experienced enrollment declines. Calculating based on the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) data, KIPP high schools’ college matriculation rates were approximately 20 percentage points higher than other high schools where 75 percent or more of students are FRPL eligible, but were down 11 percent compared to KIPP’s class of 2019.

While NSC is a valuable resource for comparative enrollment data, KIPP supplements NSC data by surveying alumni directly. This is important, as NSC does not include enrollment data for undocumented students and does not look at data from all colleges. When we look at all KIPP alumni, 72 percent of the KIPP high school class of 2020 enrolled in college, compared to 85 percent of the class of 2019.

Taking a deeper dive into KIPP-specific data, the first takeaway is that a strong academic foundation is game-changing. What we do in K-12 to prepare our students academically really matters.

  • 94 percent of Class of 2020 graduates with 3.0+ GPA and 21+ ACT enrolled in college, including 88 percent at four-year colleges. This is a decline of two percentage points for total enrollment and six percentage points for four-year colleges relative to similarly-performing Class of 2019 peers.
  • 43 percent of Class of 2020 graduates with <2.0 GPA and/or <16 ACT enrolled in either BA or AA programs, down 25 percentage points compared with similarly-performing Class of 2019 peers.

Graph of KIPP college matriculation rates for the class of 2020.

National College Enrollment for the Class of 2020

Nationwide, according to National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), the high school class of 2020 experienced a seven percent decline in fall college enrollments. And, consistent with other health, economic, and educational impacts of COVID, the impact on low-income communities and communities of color was disproportionate. For example, as evidenced in the graph below, high schools where more than 75 percent of students are eligible for Free or Reduced-Price Lunch (FRPL) experienced an 11.4 percent decline in college enrollment from the previous year, while high schools where less than 25 percent of students are FRPL-eligible experienced only a 2.9 percent decline.

Meanwhile, high schools where more than 40 percent of students identify as Black and Latinx experienced a 9.4 percent decline in college enrollment from the previous year, while high schools where less than 40 percent of students identify as Black and Latinx experienced a 4.8 percent decline.

Graph of national college matriculation rates for the class of 2020.

KIPP alum Quadir Hunter

Overcoming Challenges, Together

KIPP New Jersey alumni Quadir had to change his college enrollment plans when his family suffered fiscal hardships during the pandemic. Read more about how he worked with his counselor to start his freshman year on the right track.

Read Quadir's story

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What We’re Learning In the Era of COVID-19: Persistence

View part two of the college and COVID-19 series.