KIPP-UH Partnership To Increase College Graduation Rates

A new partnership between one of Houston's most successful charter school programs and the University of Houston, aims to help lower-income students make the leap to college. It's an effort that planners hope will eventually spread to other university campuses.

The partnership includes KIPP and universities across the country to help students continue their education. The first partner is the University of Houston, in the city where the concept known at the Knowledge is Power Program, was
born.

Jeff Fuller the UH's director of student recruitment:

"Many of these students that are enrolling at the university — not just here, but in general — from KIPP are first generation students. So they are sponges for knowledge, if you will. So this allows us to continue that partnership, build upon it, even strengthen it, so that we continue to get more of the best and the brightest from KIPP enrolling at UH, and then graduating, and going on to doing great things once they leave the university."

Houston KIPP started in 1994 to steer low-income, minority students to college. The model developed into a public charter school system, with some 30,000 students in prekindergarten through high school nationwide.

Bryan Contreras is a UH graduate and now executive director of KIPP Through College.

"What we instill in our students is: it's 49-percent academics, 51-percent character and values. And it's the 2-percent that makes the difference with our kiddos. When folks ask why are they persisting, it's that grit and tenacity that's lacking in some of the other schools. We're very deliberate. Again, I'll use that word, over and over, making sure these kids understand, 'Hey, you can get the ball to the goal-line, but it doesn't matter unless you punch it into the end zone.' And that's the college degree for us."

He says a recent study showed that  40-percent of KIPP Houston students graduate with a bachelor's or associate's degree, and about another 27 percent are still in college. It's the remaining students without degrees that they work to push.

"The national average for high SES Families is 75-percent completion. We've essentially closed the achievement gap, we think and now we just want to take this model and take it to the other districts and say, 'Look, this is working for us.' It's nothing more than time on task, high expectations, and grit and tenacity."
 
The agreement enables UH to help KIPP graduates obtain financial aid, pairs them with mentors, and encourages them to observe and student teach at KIPP Houston campuses.

Jazael Marquez is a freshman at UH. He credits his schooling at KIPP with helping him prepare for the next challenge in his education.

"KIPP is all about hard work and having the ability to do something greater. Now that we have President (Renu) Khator, she's all about working hard and doing something greater, having the focus of  UH being the center of Houston. And I really love that about that, because now I have bleeding red in my heart."

The partnership calls for UH to increase the number of KIPP students enrolled by 50 percent in three years. There are 80 KIPP Houston High School graduates currently attending the main campus.

Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...