The academic, social, and economic challenges facing low-income high school graduates in their transition to and through college remain formidable and well documented. Though the value of a college degree has never been greater, rates of college success for low-income students remain virtually unchanged over the last several decades – in 2008, the college attainment rates of low-income Americans stood at 10 percent. In keeping with its steadfast commitment that all Cristo Rey Network graduates have access to the supports they need to complete a college degree, Cristo Rey has forged unique partnerships with both private and public universities across the country to demonstrate how high schools and universities can work together to ensure student success.
Since its launch in 2009, the Network’s University Partner Initiative has doubled in size. In January 2012, Cristo Rey welcomed 21 National Partners and 19 Supporting Partners to the initiative. Cristo Rey’s University Partners have demonstrated a long-term commitment to supporting its graduates, 24 high schools, and the national Cristo Rey movement in a number of ways:
- Scholarship Programs: Students attending Cristo Rey Network schools around the country are eligible to apply to unique scholarship programs at partner institutions. For example, Loyola University Chicago launched the Cristo Rey Scholars Program in 2009. The scholarship covers all expenses for a four-year education at Loyola University Chicago. In addition to a special summer bridge and orientation program, Cristo Rey Scholars participate in a dynamic program to enrich their academic, social, spiritual, community, and professional experiences at Loyola. Other noteworthy examples include the Georgetown Scholarship Program, Marquette University’s Urban Scholars Program, Saint Joseph’s University Cristo Rey Scholarship, and Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota’s First Generation Initiative,
- Pre-college Summer Enrichment Programs: Beginning in July 2008, Fairfield University became the first partner to pioneer a summer pre-college summer exploration program for rising Cristo Rey juniors. The program provides students with an opportunity to think holistically about the college match and selection process as they explore which institutions best fit their educational and career goals. Students are provided with valuable resources and experiences throughout the program to assist them as they navigate the college application process. Similarly, Georgetown University has developed its own three week summer academic program. Watch a video overview of the program here.
Early successes of the initiative include:
- Almost 500 Cristo Rey Network graduates enrolling at a partner institution over the last four years
- Over 88 percent of students enrolled at a partner institution are on track to graduate with a degree
- Over 300 hundred Cristo Rey Network high school students participating in a partner pre-college enrichment program
Education leaders at all levels are exploring new ways to ensure all students make it to and through college to earn their degree. The campaign to increase college completion rates for all students, especially those from low income families, has created new opportunities for high schools and universities to forge unique partnerships. In the case of the Cristo Rey Network’s University Partner Initiative, high schools are now examining how they prepare students for the transition to college while partner universities are thinking more deeply about how to most effectively support students in achieving their degrees.
A full list of important university partners is available in the slideshow below.