Blue Ridge Foundation


for every high school student who has the potential to succeed in college to actually enroll?

The Problem

College graduation is one of the most important stepping stones toward economic mobility, yet low-income students with A’s enroll in college only at the same rate as higher income students with D’s.  Many college-capable low-income students don’t attend simply because they don’t have the community of support from family and friends necessary to navigate the application process.  In most public high schools, guidance counselors are expected to provide the help, but the typical ratio of students to counselors is about 400 to 1.

College Summit NYC's Innovation

College Summit partners with high schools in low-income communities to develop a college-going culture that reaches every student and raises college application and enrollment rates. Each summer, a corps of rising seniors attend a four-day workshop on a college campus and become the College Summit Peer Leaders in their schools. The Peer Leaders motivate their classmates throughout the college application season. College Summit also provides a college advisory course taught to every student in its partner schools, and data tools for educators to track how their students are progressing in their application process. College Summit is a leader in advocating for more accountability for schools, and was instrumental in the inclusion of a college and career readiness metric in the report card for every New York City high school.

Why Blue Ridge Invested

Founded in 1993 in Washington, DC, College Summit operates in sites around the country.  Blue Ridge provided the first funding to launch the NYC location because College Summit’s approach is unusually scalable.  Its mix of programs, tools, measurement and advocacy can drive increased focus on college at the individual, school and system levels.

  • Founded in


  • Blue Ridge
    community since


  • Amount raised
    before Blue Ridge


  • Blue Ridge support +
    in kind through 2009


  • Amount raised after Blue Ridge through 2012


Notable Highlights and Achievements

In the five years of Blue Ridge’s support, College Summit grew from launch in 2005 to reach 6,600  9th-12th grade students in 46 partner high schools in the 2009-2010 school year, and impacted over 12,200 students cumulatively during the grant period. College Summit also grew from serving seniors only to a 9th-12th grade model.

In it’s policy work, College Summit advised the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) on its work with the National Student Clearinghouse to report college enrollment, and is proud to have shaped the NYCDOE’s accountability metric on college readiness.

In 2008, College Summit published “High Schools As Launch Pads: How College-Going Culture Improves Graduation Rates in Low-Income High Schools.”   The white paper reflects College Summit’s leadership in the policy arena to change the focus of accountability in high schools from graduating students to preparing them for college and career success. A subsequent white paper “The Promise of Proficiency: How College Proficiency Information Can Help High Schools Drive Student Success” released in 2009 urges high schools to learn in a systematic, methodical way how its graduates are doing, and make sound, strategic decisions on preparing their students for post-secondary success.

College Summit’s work was highlighted in several features, including Education Week, “Better Than Their Numbers,” September 17, 2008 and New York Times Op-Ed, “High School’s Last Test,” by J.B. Schramm and E. Kinney Zalesne, December 22, 2009.

Updates as a Blue Ridge alum:

In 2010, College Summit was awarded $125,000 of President Obama’s $1.4 million Nobel Peace Prize award, which supported students in communities across the country on their path to higher education.

College Summit was awarded two Social Innovation Fund grants during the inaugural year of the prestigious federal program, one of only two organizations to receive two of the awards.

Facebook, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, College Summit and the King Center Charter School launched the College Knowledge Challenge in 2012.

College Summit now has partnerships in both Newark and Trenton New Jersey serving 4,300 students from grades 9-12 in the 2013-14 school year.

College Summit NYC Results

Since its inception eight years ago, College Summit New York has helped over 25,000 New York City students prepare for college success.

College Summit achieved its goal of increasing the college enrollment rate at partner schools. Through the Class of 2012, College Summit NYC partner schools increased college enrollment by more than 30  percent over baseline, on average.  Students also persisted in college at high rates: 82 percent of students in four-year colleges persisted from their first to second years, as did 75 percent of students in two-year colleges. Importantly, two-thirds of students are enrolled in four-year institutions.

Updates as a Blue Ridge alum:

Including data from the Class of 2012, College Summit New York’s partner high schools have collectively increased their school-wide college enrollment rates by 34% over and above their pre-College Summit rates. College Summit New York students are enrolling at rates higher than the national average for low-income students, and its Peer Leaders are enrolling at a rate above the national average for students of all incomes.