J. B. Schramm

College Summit
Year founded: 

College Summit is a national organization that helps public schools raise their purpose from high school diplomas to college and career success.

Focus: Education
Geographic Area of Impact: United States
Model: Hybrid Non-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 50,000 (2013)
Annual Budget: US$ 17.5 million (2011)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 24%
Recognition: Schwab Fellow of the World Economic Forum; SEOY, US, 2007

The long-term health of the United States depends on whether the nation can expand the pool of college-educated talent to grow the economy. High performance in low-income high schools is not just about the availability of quality academic courses; students must also buy into the rigour. Research finds that students lose motivation and drop out when they believe high school is not relevant to their college and career goals. Performance increases when students experience high school not as a destination but as a launching pad for college and career success.

Innovation and Activities
College Summit works to increase college enrolment rates of low-income students in the US by partnering with school districts to help high schools build a “college-going” culture. It works with educators to embed a post-secondary planning structure and resources into each school. This includes a regular, for-credit College Summit class with detailed curriculum, regular teacher training and online tools to help both teachers and students manage college applications online.

Central to the programme is peer leadership. College Summit trains influential students to help build a student-led, college-bound culture in their high schools. Approximately 15-20% of the rising senior class attend a four-day workshop on a nearby college campus where they get a head start on college applications by learning how to effectively write a personal statement, meet one-on-one with a guidance counsellor, learn the basics of financial aid, and gain concrete skills in self-advocacy. These students then return to their respective schools and spread their enthusiasm to their peers.

College Summit has served 130,000 students from low-income communities and trained 1,600 educators in college-going curriculum, and currently works with 170 partner high schools in 11 states and the District of Columbia. College Summit’s partner schools have increased their school-wide college enrolment rates by 18% since the programme’s implementation.

The Entrepreneur
J. B. Schramm is a product of the Denver public school system. Supported by his parents, both university graduates, he successfully applied from his inner-city high school and enrolled in university. In contrast, many of his talented classmates, whose parents had not gone to college and who relied on an application support system in their school that was ineffective, did not go to college. After graduating from Yale University and the Harvard Divinity School, he directed a teen centre in the basement of a Washington DC housing project. There he encountered smart, curious and determined young people who did not see university as an option. Recognizing a critical public sector and market failure, he founded College Summit to address this gap.

Schramm is a recipient of honorary doctorates from Regis University in Public Service and Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium, as well as the Gleitsman Citizen Activist Award and the Harvard Divinity School First Decade Award. He serves as an Aspen Institute-New Schools Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education Fellow and is a member of the Kennedy School of Government’s Executive Session on Transforming Cities through Civic Entrepreneurship. In addition to being selected by US President Barack Obama for a portion of his Nobel Peace Prize award, College Summit has received awards in social enterprise from Ashoka, Fast Company Magazine, The Manhattan Institute and The Skoll Foundation.