By Fiona Haley
Budget: $2.1 million
Each year, 200,000 American high school seniors are ready to go to college but can't because they don't know how to apply. Enter College Summit, which works with high schools and colleges to help low-income students make the leap. While at his own Denver high school, J.B. Schramm, College Summit's CEO and founder, noticed that poor children didn't go to college, often because their parents hadn't. Later, as an adviser to undergraduate students at Harvard, he realized that there was a real need for low-income talent. He started College Summit in 1993 with four students in the basement of a Washington, DC, housing project.
"Students who attend college will earn $1 million in lifetime income, and their kids are more likely to enroll," Schramm says. "If all the kids who could go to college went, there would be a benefit to the government of more than $60 billion a year in federal taxes, as well as nearly doubling the odds that kids [of college-educated parents] will go."
When students don't know how to apply to college, they also don't know how to showcase their skills and personalities, which leaves them with mediocre test scores and no tools for self-promotion. College Summit teaches them to market themselves so they are more than just SAT scores. Each spring, partner high schools appoint and train 20 influential juniors as peer leaders who undergo an intensive four-day summer orientation. During the orientation, the students complete the application process and train as advisers to work with teachers and help other students complete the college application. High schools then share student data with colleges.
College Summit works with partner colleges, including the University of Chicago, University of Southern California, the University of Denver, and others that share admissions criteria so the program can match it with the most qualified students. The system provides colleges with a more diverse pool of applicants, as well as fewer, more specific applications. In return, the students get individualized guidance about the colleges they would like to attend.
The program has now grown to serve almost 8,000 students across the country. This year is the first year that College Summit has included the entire senior class, instead of just the peer leaders, which means that thousands more students will have help applying to college. In addition, College Summit is now working with school districts in Chicago, Denver, West Virginia, California, and Washington, DC, with plans to integrate one new community every year.
Now, Schramm says, 79% of College Summit's peer leaders have enrolled in college -- nearly double the national rate of seniors at the same income level -- and 80% of them have graduated within six years, despite an average GPA of 2.85 and the expectation that they would never attend college at all. "The young man who is the first in his family to go to college ends poverty in his family line forever," Schramm says. "It is irreversible progress."
J.B. Schramm, Founder and CEO
J.B. Schramm was one of the first four North Americans to be awarded an Ashoka Fellowship for social entrepreneurs, and he has won the National Association for the College Admissions Counseling's highest award for expanding access to higher education. Schramm has also received the Harvard Divinity School First Decade Award and an Echoing Green Fellowship. Schramm graduated from Yale University and the Harvard Divinity School.
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