YES Prep graduates at Rhodes College in Memphis support each other.
Only 10 percent of low-income, first-generation college students will earn a bachelor’s degree within six years, writes Erin Einhorn on the Hechinger Report. Some college-prep charters are providing college counseling to their graduates to improve those odds.
These alumni advisors send reminders about scholarship deadlines, connect students with campus resources such as writing centers and help them understand quirks that may not be obvious to kids whose parents never went to college, including the importance of withdrawing from a class before the deadline to avoid a failing grade and a tuition bill.
“More and more high schools are feeling a responsibility beyond high school graduation,” said Kim Cook, executive director of the National College Access Network. They can’t simply hand off their graduates to college and move on, the way runners in a relay race pass the baton, Cook said. “We’ve had some wake-up calls … that make us scratch our heads and think, hmm, maybe the baton pass wasn’t really working.”
YES Prep, a chain of Houston-based charters, sends its low-income, minority graduates to college, but realized that most never earned degrees. Now the chain has hired three full-time counselors to support graduates.
YES Prep also sends groups of alumni to college together to support each other. And the chain uses their feedback about how well-prepared they were to tweak its curriculum for juniors and seniors. Early returns have been promising, with the charter network now reporting that 72 percent of its alumni are still in college or have graduated.
Another large charter chain, KIPP, the Knowledge Is Power Program, hires dozens of staffers around the country for its KIPP Through College campaign. They work with kids starting in the eighth grade and send groups of students to support each other at 60 colleges and universities — programs KIPP credits with boosting its six-year bachelor’s degree rate from 28 percent a few years ago to 45 percent today.
“To and through” is the motto of Downtown College Prep, the charter school I wrote about in Our School. Not only does the high school offer counseling to help graduates succeed in college, it’s added help in finding jobs once they earn their degrees.