Innovative Alumni Support: Donors Lead the Way

Every year, 3 million students nationwide drop out of college due to a financial crisis of less than $500. When longtime KIPP supporters Carol and Gene Ludwig heard stories of alumni being forced to put their postsecondary plans on hold, or drop out, because they couldn’t pay a bill, they worked with KIPP to establish the Carol and Gene Ludwig Persistence Fund.

“If a financial emergency is preventing a student from remaining in college, that is a problem we are very eager to solve,” said Dr. Carol Ludwig, president of the Carol and Gene Ludwig Family Foundation and KIPP DC Board Member. “We are honored to partner with KIPP to ensure that hard-working students have the financial resources that they need in order to earn and access the numerous benefits of a college degree. We are thrilled that this type of financial aid has contributed to more students completing college.”

Through the Persistence Fund, KIPP alumni can access one-time, emergency microgrants to cover unexpected expenses that might otherwise derail their college goals. This support can cover basic living necessities, course supplies, technology, and other critical needs.

Originally piloted in 2014 for KIPP DC alumni, the Ludwig Persistence Fund’s significant and sustained success fueled interest in scaling the program to reach more alumni in other KIPP regions. In 2018, the Ludwigs provided Persistence Fund grants to five additional KIPP regions, and the grants have had a significant impact for these KIPP graduates, which ultimately led KIPP and the Ludwigs to expand the program to all KIPP regions in 2020.  

Today, with the Ludwigs’ support, 92 percent of KIPP alumni who received a microgrant are staying in college or have graduated. When COVID impacted alumni nationwide, KIPP launched a national microgrant program known as the Postsecondary Bridge Fund modeled on the Ludwig Persistence Fund.

Determined to further strengthen support for KIPP alumni, the Ludwigs partnered with KIPP to pilot a new program leveraging nudge technology. Nudge allows KIPP to send targeted text messages, including reminders and encouragement, to alumni in college. An AI-assisted bot called “KIPPer” also responds to commonly asked questions. Thanks to the Ludwigs’ early backing, 22 KIPP regions are now using Nudge.

Whether you’re a new donor to KIPP or longtime contributors like Carol and Gene Ludwig, you can be part of the innovation happening to support KIPP students and alumni.