Morehouse, Spelman Announce Partnerships with KIPP Charter School Network

Morehouse and Spelman Colleges last week announced partnerships with the KIPP Foundation to help students from low-income backgrounds realize the dream of college graduation. The partnerships represent the first such agreements between a charter school organization and an HBCU.

The first-of-its-kind partnerships were developed out of a desire to get more students from low-income backgrounds “to and through college,” says KIPP spokesperson Steve Mancini. Each college will guarantee spots to 15 KIPP graduating students for the 2013-2014 school year, and 20 students each year thereafter.  Additionally, the KIPP Metro Atlanta schools will serve as expanded work-study sites for students at Spelman and Morehouse.

“KIPP schools across the nation have established a strong track record of educating high potential, underserved students who are ready for the academically challenging collegiate environment Spelman provides,” says Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, president of Spelman College. “We are proud to partner with KIPP in this new effort, knowing that we have a supportive learning environment in which KIPP graduates can thrive.”

Morehouse President Dr. Robert M. Franklin says both KIPP and Morehouse have “a shared desire to provide educational opportunities for boys of color…our desire is that at least this segment of the KIPP population will have the benefit of the Morehouse experience and will be able to contribute to our community.” 

He continues, “Essentially, we saw this KIPP opportunity as consistent with Morehouse’s mission of providing academic and leadership opportunities. … We feel we have an obligation to celebrate the preparation and the extra effort that those middle and high schools are investing in low-income students.”

“We want to give the same chances to our kids as those from high income backgrounds,” Mancini says.

Though KIPP alumni go on to graduate college at rates far greater than the national average for students from low-income backgrounds (36 percent of KIPP students graduate college by the end of their twenties, compared with 30 percent total nationally, and an average of 8 percent of low-income students across the nation), Mancini says there is still work to be done to get KIPP alumni on par with their more affluent counterparts, who see three out of every four students finish college by the end of their twenties.

Still, it is difficult to ignore the importance of securing sufficient funding to ensure these students are able to make it not only to, but through college as well. KIPP and Spelman and Morehouse officials recognize the challenges presented to students from low-income backgrounds as it relates to financing an education.

These challenges are similar to those the institutions themselves face in raising funds to support their students as they matriculate through the institutions. Though neither school has the resources to guarantee scholarships to the students admitted as part of the KIPP partnerships, the institutions have pledged the support of financial aid advisers and counselors.

“While some of the KIPP partner institutions have guaranteed scholarships for KIPP graduates, Spelman College has not done so. The number of deserving Spelman students with financial need far exceeds our supply of scholarship dollars. We have, however, committed to help KIPP students identify potential scholarship resources, as we do for all of our students with financial need,” Tatum says. 

Franklin hopes that the partnership will open up new avenues to help secure funds to further the students’ goal of college graduation, in spite of any financial obstacles they may face. He would like to see Morehouse, Spelman and KIPP work together on joint fundraising initiatives to help provide scholarships for deserving students. 

“We hope that working together … can open new doors to financial opportunities to students in the college pipeline,” Franklin says.  It is his desire that the partnership announcement will “excite people who are not paying much attention to investing in higher education to invest new resources into these students’ academic success.”

Mancini acknowledges that while money is a factor that plays a role in determining collegiate success, it is not the only factor in play. He emphasizes the importance of a supporting network – both of other KIPP students and faculty and staff at partner institutions – and believes that the partnerships represent, most importantly, the opportunity to see a dream realized.

“Morehouse and Spelman are schools that both have very high completion rates to begin with. They have long been beacons of excellence to our students,” he says.  “We think having KIPP students at schools that are so supportive and rigorous academically is essential.”

Mancini goes on to say that the partnerships with Morehouse and Spelman have “a symbolic significance, [representing for students] what they can dream for, what they can aspire to, that a place like Spelman or Morehouse is within their reach.”

Tatum agrees.  “We believe that the knowledge that a cohort of qualified KIPP students will be entering Spelman each year will serve as a source of inspiration and motivation for young women across the communities served by KIPP. Consistent with our mission, we are delighted to be part of the pipeline of talent that is emerging from the KIPP network of schools,” she says.

Mancini spoke about the achievement gap between students from low-income backgrounds and those from higher income households, saying “we want to close that gap. Partnerships like these are going to help us get there, and we are very excited.”

The partnerships with Morehouse and Spelman represent the eighth and ninth such partnerships between KIPP schools and higher education institutions. KIPP will announce a tenth partnership in two weeks, meeting the goal of ten partnerships by July nearly two months early. KIPP’s other university partners include Colby College (Waterville, Maine), Davidson College (Davidson, N.C.), University of Houston (Houston, Texas), Franklin and Marshall College (Lancaster, Penn.), San Jose State University (San Jose, Calif.), Mercy College (Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.), and Tulane University (New Orleans, La.).