College Summit: Winner's Statement

Social Capitalists

College Summit

College Summit is a national non-profit organization transforming America's low-income communities through the lever of increased college enrollment.

For over a decade, College Summit has enabled low-income students to enroll in college at the same rate as their middle-class counterparts, by addressing three systemic gaps:

  • Build a college-going culture in schools by training influential student "Peer Leaders" to produce college applications themselves and to support fellow students throughout the application process
  • Provide high schools with a College Transition Management System to ensure every student has a "manager" in the college application process
  • Develop a data pipeline between high schools and colleges around the country, facilitating holistic review of students who are "better than their numbers."

College Access in America: The student who is first in his family to go to college essentially ends poverty in his family line, forever. He'll earn an additional $1 million over the course of his career. And his children will be almost twice as likely to enroll themselves. A recent Harvard University report, "CEOs for Cities: The Changing Dynamics of Urban America," states that a college degree is the number one driver of urban economic growth.

Every year in the United States, approximately 200,000 low-income youth graduate from high school ready for college -- but do not enroll. Data from the Congressional Advisory Committee on Financial Assistance shows that high school seniors from the low-income quartile who score "A's" on achievement tests enroll in college at the same rate as the students from the top income quartile who get " D's." In other words, as the Century Foundation's recent study concludes, in America, "the least bright rich kids have as much chance of going to college as the smartest poor kids." Indeed, the college transition system is broken for low-income students in this country.

And the stakes are high: in March, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan called post-secondary educational opportunities "critical" to the health of our economy. If we were able to correct the systems so these 200,000 students went to college, they would add an additional $80 billion in tax revenue each year.

But the difficulties low-income students encounter in the college transition are fixable -- not just for a small group of students, but systemically and nationwide.

College Summit's approach to social change is system-wide, results-focused, and market-based.

College Summit works system-wide: Most American teens heading to college rely on two types of adults:

  • Expert counselors, who can disseminate college information to hundreds of students
  • Non-expert, college-experienced parents, who help students stay on track through the complicated college application and matriculation process

In low-income communities, where most parents have not been to college, the second role -- the College Application Manager -- is missing. America is asking first-generation students to do what middle-class students cannot: manage their own way through the college application process.

College Summit responds by strengthening high school guidance and application management systems for all seniors. Building off the effectiveness of the Summer Workshops and the energy and experience of the Peer Leaders, College Summit trains teachers to fill the college application "manager" role for all seniors during a regularly-scheduled (usually once a week) College Summit advisory or classroom period beginning in the fall of senior year. Key tools include:

  • College Summit "Navigator," which empowers students to take control of this major transition by providing step-by-step guidance, and its curricular companion for teachers (made possible by a growth capital investment from Morgan Stanley)
  • "CSNet," College Summit's online application system, enables teachers to track progress of each student and facilitates the production of students' application portfolios. CSNet is a proprietary technology that provides an invaluable service to our ultimate customers -- students and teachers.

College Summit is results-focused: College Summit has worked with nearly 5,000 student Peer Leaders to date. These mid-tier students (average high school GPA: 2.85) have enrolled in college at a rate of 79% (versus 46% for low-income high school graduates nationwide). Moreover, 80% of College Summit students have stayed in college, which is outstanding for any demographic. And lead indicators on the first year of school-wide enrollment data are encouraging: College counselors in each partner high school report increased numbers of filed college applications, which they credit to College Summit.

College Summit's impressive results have earned it the highest award in the field of college access, from the National Association for College Admission Counseling. The organization and its Founder/CEO have also received the most noteworthy distinctions in social entrepreneurship from Ashoka, New Profit Inc., Knight Foundation's National Venture Fund, Skoll Foundation, and the Manhattan Institute.

College Summit's business model is market-based: College Summit's fundamental insight is that low-income talent is undervalued. Like the private sector, the organization seeks to correct market inefficiencies -- ensuring that the value of the young people can be realized in a way that serves the self-interest of community institutions.

College Summit has developed a "give-get" model that aligns the assets of high schools, colleges, philanthropy, and employers against their respective needs, bringing significant resources to bear on a community-wide college access model. By focusing on generating fees-for-service, College Summit not only makes progress toward self-perpetuating scale, but also focuses on improved programmatic success with our student, school, and college customers.

The College Summit market-based theory of change hinges on producing measurable progress community-wide (e.g., increasing college enrollment for an entire school district) through a model that is both self-sustaining and scaleable -- helping correct the historic under-enrollment of college-ready, low-income talent.

College Summit works to help close the college enrollment gap in America by building an effective transition system for all students.

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The above information was provided by the profiled organization.