Saint Mary’s Partners with KIPP Foundation on New College Completion Initiative

Saint Mary's College of California announces a new partnership with the KIPP Foundation (Knowledge Is Power Program) to promote college completion for students from low-income families, who are often the first in their families to go to college. KIPP is a national network of free, open enrollment, college-preparatory public charter schools with a track record of preparing students in underserved communities for success in college and in life.

The new initiative establishes an annual enrollment pipeline to the College, for up to seven students a year, primarily from KIPP Bay Area Schools (KBAS). KIPP alumni attending Saint Mary’s will be invited to participate in the College’s High Potential Program, where they can benefit from a variety of academic support initiatives, including a first year advising cohort, peer mentoring and a Summer Bridge Program, that begins on July 25.

"This partnership is in keeping with Saint Mary's mission of providing educational access for low-income first generation college students," said President James Donahue. "It builds on the 40-year tradition of the College's High Potential Program, which was created to foster higher education opportunities for low-income students from diverse under-represented communities."

The objectives of the Saint Mary's KIPP partnership include attracting more students from KIPP's national network of high-performing public charter schools and establishing academic support strategies to address the challenges of low-income first generation to college students.

“Many of the partnership’s goals are already part of our mission,” said Provost Bethami Dobkin. “Our focus on retention and academic readiness initiatives, such as the High Potential program, are some of the reasons why the College’s four-year graduation rate increased eleven percent in four years, and our Hispanic student graduation rate, at 65 percent completion in four years, exceeds our average overall rate by five percentage points.”

Presently, five KIPP alumni, including three KBAS graduates, are scheduled to enter Saint Mary’s in the fall. KBAS include KIPP San Francisco College Preparatory, KIPP San Jose Collegiate, KIPP King Collegiate in San Lorenzo and five other schools across the Bay Area.

“We are very excited to partner with Saint Mary’s,” said Beth Sutkus Thompson, executive director of KIPP Bay Area Schools. “Our students will benefit not only from the College’s strong academic programs, but from its commitment to creating life changing educational experiences for students through close interaction with its stellar faculty, small class sizes and innovative study abroad opportunities. We are eager to see our KIPP alumni thrive as they continue their climb to college graduation.”

Nationally, 44 percent of students who finished 8th grade at KIPP 10 or more years ago have graduated from a four-year college. This is significantly above the national average for all students (29 percent) and five times the rate for students from the lowest economic quartile (8 percent). KIPP's goal is to attain a college completion rate that is comparable to the nation's highest-income students.

Established in 2002, KIPP Bay Area Schools (KBAS) consists of eight public charter schools serving 2,800 students in grades 5-12. More than 95 percent of KIPP Bay Area’s students are people of color, and 75 percent are from low-income households. All five KIPP Bay Area middle schools have been recognized as California Distinguished Schools. Average API (Academic Performance Index) scores for KIPP schools in the Bay Area was 882 for 2012-2013, nearly 100 points above the California average.

Currently, there are 162 KIPP schools in 20 states and the District of Columbia, which serve more than 58,000 students. For more information about KIPP visit


Michael McAlpin
Director of Media Relations
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(925) 878-9535 cell

About SMC
The Saint Mary’s College of California experience inspires learning that lasts a lifetime. For 150 years, the College has provided students with a rigorous education that engages their intellect and spirit, and awakens a desire to transform society. Guided by the Christian Brothers, the Catholic Church’s oldest order dedicated exclusively to teaching, the College enrolls more than 4,200 students in undergraduate and graduate liberal arts and business programs. For more information visit Saint Mary’s College at and just 23 miles east of San Francisco.