Social Enterprise: College Summit
Social Entrepreneur(s): J. B. Schramm
Location(s): United States
Identify students who exert the greatest social influence in any high school and enlist them to persuade friends and fellow students to apply to college.
The Innovation Explained
College Summit partners with high schools in low-income neighbourhoods to raise their college enrolment and persistence rates. Together with the principal and teachers, they nurture a college-going culture in these schools to dramatically increase the percentage of high school seniors attending college. This is based upon a truth parents know well: teenagers are more heavily influenced by their peers than by parental figures or teachers.
Using this insight, College Summit maps the social networks in each school and encourages the students who are leaders of those networks (roughly 10% of each class) to become Peer Leaders. “We’re not after the top academic performers necessarily,” explains J.B. Schramm. “We hone in on the influencers and work with them to get them to apply.”
Peer Leaders attend College Summit’s four-day residential camp, where they interact with Peer Leaders from other schools, complete college applications and receive leadership training. Peer Leaders return to their schools energized and motivated to encourage a college-going culture among classmates and spearhead college application campaigns. At the same time, all students in the school take part in a college and career-planning course. “We explore what kind of lifestyle they want to live in the future, and help them understand how the choices they make in school affect the future options they have,” says Schramm.
This year, College Summit is working with nearly 50,000 students from 180 high schools in 13 states in the United States, 90% of whom are African-American or Latino. University enrolment rates have increased by 20% over the baseline rate for participating schools, while their college persistence rate of 75% matches that achieved by students from all income groups.
Why This Matters
Studies demonstrate that economic growth is driven by the college attainment rate of the adult population. Yet over the past two decades the United States has fallen in international rankings from first to twelfth position in the population percentage that achieves a university-level education. In low-income school districts, 50% of ninth grade students never graduate from high school, further contributing to the growing gap between the rich and poor.
Additionally, the US Government’s educational reform is focused on transparency and holding public schools accountable. This is “shifting the goal … from high school graduation rates as the goal, to sending more students to college as the goal,” according to Schramm. “And influential students are the most under-utilized educational resource in schools. School districts with scarce public funding available can’t afford to leave the biggest tool of potential education reformers on the side-lines any longer.”
Empower students to be active drivers of change instead of passive beneficiaries. “Rather than thinking of young people in school as vessels to be filled with knowledge, think of them as drivers of change,” says Schramm. Peer-to-peer influence has a greater effect than any top-down programme.
Develop strategic corporate relationships that leverage a company’s core expertise. College Summit collaborated with Deloitte to build a data management system for high school principals; it tracks how many of their students complete their federal financial aid forms and submit college applications. “We were able to bring those scorecards to policy-makers and show them how schools can make progress when young people set higher goals for themselves,” explains Schramm. “This is a great example of how a company can apply their technical, quantitative skills in a strategic way, resulting in policy influence.”