Getting From High School to the College Beat

Challenging the premise that high school graduation is a destination rather than a springboard to the future, College Summit Founder and CEO, J.B. Schramm says, “We re-envision the purpose of high school to be a launch pad for college and career success.”

College Summit students are drawn from homes where parents typically did not attend college, where they might have experienced struggles, or where teens may be thrust from high school to the streets, instead of to college. Through College Summit, students begin to get a broader idea about their future direction and gain better clarity of goals that may have previously seemed unrealistic.

College Summit helps explain to students the “invisible universe” about jobs, income earning opportunities, and the necessary types of education required. The College Summit model is geared toward getting students engaged in their post-secondary planning and in meeting milestones and goals throughout the year.

On average, College Summit's partner schools increase their college enrollment rates by 18% over years previous to the program's implementation, according to an independent research evaluation. In addition, the college persistence rates of College Summit students (those who make it to the sophomore year of college) is 79%, which is on par with college persistence rates for students from all income levels in the US, according to actual data that College Summit receives from college registrars offices.

In 2006, Deloitte began searching for an organization with whom it could work to advance its goals related to education. Says Evan Hochberg, National Director Community Involvement, Deloitte Services LP, “When we looked around for a lead organization to work with, College Summit rose to the top.”

So, just how did Deloitte and College Summit kick-off a relationship that, in four years, resulted in them winning the 2010 Partnership Award? Values.

From the beginning, both Deloitte LLP CEO Barry Salzberg and College Summit Founder and CEO J.B. Schramm found that each was passionate about increasing college access for low-income students, and then focused on exploring what each of their respective organizations valued in a working relationship. In this case, they each held a value for action-oriented outcomes around how to increase college enrollment and completion rates in the United States. Hochberg relates, “The initial conversations weren’t just about ‘pulling the heart strings,’ but really about what it takes to increase college enrollment rates, what percentage of students College Summit could help mobilize from a tough school or situation and help get into college, and what’s the cost of delivering such goals?”

The answer led to a multi-faceted arrangement between Deloitte and College Summit, starting with an agreement to advance College Summit’s ability to scale its programmatic work by building infrastructure capacity. Says Hochberg,” The original discussion of what we would do together was not about a check. It was about board leadership, nationally and locally, engaging our people as mentors, and pro bono work that would fundamentally change the way College Summit can communicate with schools to foster better results.  This relationship did, and still does, require engagement from many parts of our organization.”

College Summit has been incredibly sophisticated in its mission. It offers programs for increasing college enrollment from the ranks of underserved populations of students who otherwise might never have even applied to college. Yet, like many non-profits, it was shy of resources to improve its efficiency and productivity.

With Deloitte’s focus on building capacity to lead toward outcomes, it was natural for the organization to apply the same skills it uses with commercial clients to the needs of College Summit. In this case, Deloitte developed a college enrollment data warehouse, a multi-million system that enables College Summit to get reliable school and student performance data into the hands of superintendents, principals, guidance counselors and teachers, in a fraction of the time it used to take them.

The impact of Deloitte’s collaboration assisted College Summit in being able to scale to more schools – from 6,000 when their work began in 2006 to 25,000 for the current school year. With this new technology infrastructure, the organization is now able to spend less time manipulating data and more time positively impacting the lives of thousands more students than its capabilities previously allowed. A key lesson has been that providing in-kind services to enhance a pro bono client’s capacity to operate yielded far greater programmatic results than strictly committing monetary donation to programs.

With the Deloitte-provisioned data warehouse, College Summit can provide school superintendents and principals with reports about the blocking and tackling of what it takes to support and move a student through the steps towards college enrollment. Says Brian Gaines, Vice President of Partnerships, Marketing and Regional Operations, College Summit, “For example, in one high school, we found that thirty-five students out of the five hundred had not completed their financial aid forms and we could step in to help them finish it.”

From measurement to awareness to mentorship, Deloitte and College Summit don’t just turn around numbers, but also people. Says College Summit alum and second year Franklin & Marshall College student Andre Simon, “When I first saw College Summit put up posters at my charter high school, I signed on and I am grateful I did. For me personally, college would not have been possible without College Summit.” He goes on to add, “College would not be possible without Deloitte also.”

Apparently, Andre told College Summit that he needed help with his personal statement essay for a financial aid award. He was then assigned to a Deloitte employee who was volunteering with College Summit and who helped him with his essay. Andre says that “This Deloitte volunteer stayed up with me to 9 o’clock at night, working with me on my essay. I can tell you that I was surprised someone I didn’t know would go out of his way like that and care so deeply.”

When you try and discover the ”magic potion” of what makes the Deloitte-College Summit relationship so effective, you turn to the top leadership for insight. According to Schramm, “The people at Deloitte are incredibly motivated about the issue of college access. They understand and embrace it from the gut level and come ready to roll up their sleeves and get involved at the deepest level, applying what they do to help organizations in their commercial work, and bring it to us with a spirit and energy that is rare.”

“Deloitte is passionate about making college attendance the norm in America,” said Salzberg.  “Our deep relationship with College Summit is marked by substantial pro bono work, skilled volunteerism, national and local leadership and cash giving. We are proud to be associated with this phenomenal organization and to help scale its success and expand its reach.  The impact on students and schools is powerful and real.”  

These CEOs’ thoughts capture a sense that the Deloitte-College Summit relationship has indeed met goals for achievement of actionable outcomes, including improvement of both the capacity of participating schools and increasing the number of their students to enroll in college. It overwhelmingly seems to have strengthened the cultures of each organization.

Schramm has said before Congress that, “Every student who is first in their family to graduate from college basically ends the poverty in their family line forever because they’ll earn around $1 million over the course of their careers; and their children will be almost twice as likely to go to college themselves.”

In February 2009, President Obama said in a speech to the nation that, “By 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.” This past July he announced the American Graduation Initiative, calling for five million more college graduates by 2020, to help the United States again lead the world in educational attainment.

The work of Deloitte and College Summit will not only help our nation move towards the President’s 2020 goal, it will also positively shape many lives.