KIPP Report Recommends Five Key Steps For Congress To Tackle Low College Completion Rates

Washington, D.C. – May 8, 2019 — Today the KIPP Foundation released a new report detailing how Congress can address college completion rates nationwide, especially for students from low-income families, students of color and first-generation students. The recommendations include federally funding college counseling, addressing college affordability, expanding successful policies aimed at increasing completion rates, investing in minority serving institutions, expanding opportunities for undocumented students and focusing on career integration throughout the PreK to career pipeline.

KIPP is the largest public charter school network in the country with 224 PreK-12 schools and has made college completion a centerpiece of its work.

The report shows that in fall 2018, 35 percent of KIPP alumni earned a bachelor’s degree, and that number was even higher (45 percent) for those alumni who graduated from KIPP high schools. Nationally, only 11 percent of students from low-income families earn a bachelor’s degree, drastically lower rates than their more affluent peers.

“We’ve made a lot of strides at KIPP towards improving college completion rates over the last decade, but they’ve only taken us so far,” said Richard Barth, CEO of the KIPP Foundation. “The college completion crisis is denying millions of young people the opportunity to achieve a college degree because too often they arrive on campus without the academic, financial and social-emotional support they deserve. The reauthorization of the Higher Education Act is a tangible opportunity to address these barriers and create more equity in our system. We implore Congress to act this year with meaningful changes.”

And while KIPP alumni may be earning a bachelor’s degree at three times the rate of their peers from similar economic backgrounds, when they get to college, many face unnecessary barriers to success. Of the thousands of college-enrolled KIPP alumni surveyed in 2016 and 2017:

  • 72 percent of respondents did not have career aligned summer jobs or internships;
  • 58 percent of respondents reported feeling negatively judged by others based on their race;
  • 57 percent of respondents worried about running out of food;
  • 43 percent of respondents missed meals to pay for school related expenses; and,
  • 24 percent of respondents sent money home to support a family member.

In addition to providing a well-rounded college-prep program, KIPP has implemented multiple strategies to support students and alumni through their college years. Strong college counseling, including our college match and college persistence programs, as well as academic, emotional and financial supports that follow students through college have all contributed to our alumni’s success. But more needs to be done on the national level to support all students.


KIPP drew on the experiences as well as insights of KIPP alumni and dozens of experts in the field to develop a set of recommendations for Congress. KIPP’s recommendations seek to address these challenges as well as others that disproportionately affect students from low-income families, students of color and first-generation students. The five recommendations are:

  1. Creating a federal grant program that significantly reduces the student-to-counselor ratios and incentivizes the adoption of evidence-informed counseling practices and holds grantees accountable for results;
  2. Reducing the financial barriers to a degree by incentivizing state spending on higher education through a robust federal-state partnership that is a first-dollar, need-based aid program and creates a college affordability guarantee for students of color and those from low-income families;
  3. Investing in replicating and expanding policies, programs and practices that increase college completion rates by creating a tiered-evidence innovation fund that supports the piloting, replication, and expansion of successful approaches to improving access and completion in higher education;
  4. Supporting Minority Serving Institutions by investing in colleges and universities that best serve traditionally underrepresented students and expanding opportunities for undocumented students by making them eligible for federal financial aid and providing DREAMers with a pathway to citizenship; and,
  5. Preparing students to land a strong first job—no matter their background or the pathway they choose—by focusing on improving career integration throughout the PreK to career pipeline and modernizing the federal work-study program.

The full report is available here.

About KIPP

KIPP, the Knowledge Is Power Program, is a national network of 224 public charter schools dedicated to preparing students in educationally underserved communities for success in college and life. KIPP schools are part of the free public school system and enrollment is open to all students. Started in 1994 as a middle school program, KIPP has since expanded to enroll 96,000 students in all grades from PreK through high school. Nationwide, KIPP students complete their bachelor’s degree at a rate of 35 percent, comparable to the national average for all students and approximately three times higher than the average for students from low-income families.