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The best 150 colleges for underrepresented students: LA charter group releases its go-to list

LA School Report | December 8, 2016



Alliance College Day at Cal State LA. (Photo by Mark Savage, courtesy Alliance)

Alliance College Day at Cal State LA.
(Photo by Mark Savage, courtesy Alliance)

A Los Angeles charter school organization that sends 95 percent of its graduates to college wanted to make sure its students made it not just to but through college. So it developed a list of colleges that would give students the best chance at graduating.

Alliance College-Ready Public Schools’ college ranking system identifies the top 150 colleges with the highest graduation rates for underrepresented students of color.

Alliance believes it is the only list of its kind, and it is releasing it with hopes that guidance counselors nationwide might make use of it to close the educational equity gap.

The list, called the Power 150, was designed to help college counselors, students and families in identifying the colleges and universities that are most likely to support and graduate Alliance students, who are 94 percent low-income and 98 percent Latino or African American. Alliance serves 12,500 students at 28 public charter middle and high schools in LA’s most underserved communities.

• See all 150 colleges on Alliance’s Power 150 list. 

U.S. Census data show that only 16 percent of Latinos and 22 percent of African Americans obtained a college degree in 2015. In 2013, only 9 percent of people from the lowest income bracket had earned at least a bachelor’s degree by the time they turned 24, up from 6 percent in 1970, according to the Pell Institute.

Using data from the 2014 National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Alliance analyzed and ranked 4,200 colleges and universities nationally based on their graduation rates for underrepresented minorities. Only 150 achieved six-year graduation rates of 75 percent or higher.  

In the top five are big names like Harvard and Yale, as well as Scripps College in the LA area, Ripon College in Wisconsin and Flagler College in Florida. Other high-ranking colleges include Vassar College, Princeton University, Middlebury College, Northwestern University, Washington University, Pomona College and Stanford University.

Another charter management organization, KIPP, has created its own network of about 80 colleges it has identified as better at graduating first-generation college goers. Its College Match program guides students to these colleges, where the students greatly increase their odds of graduating.

As reported by author Richard Whitmire in “The Founders,” only about one in 10 KIPP graduates enrolled at the best colleges for them three years ago; this year it was about one in four. Colleges with high numbers of KIPP students include the University of Pennsylvania, which had 40 students this year. Pennsylvania’s Franklin & Marshall College had 35 KIPP students. Both colleges made the Alliance list. 

• Read more: KIPP’s College Match program, reported by Richard Whitmire in “The Founders”

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