Student interns generate $22 million for Cristo Rey high schools
A new business model has been gaining ground to ensure affordable, high quality education for low-income high school students in the United States.
The innovation – promoting internships that lower tuitions --was introduced by the Cristo Rey Jesuit high school in 2001. Since then, the model has applied in 19 high schools in 18 different urban areas and won support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Cristo Rey schools (click here for a 60 Minutes feature) are unique because they offer minority and low-income students the opportunity to fund their own education through entry-level internships with employers in their community. The nonprofit organizations and firms employing Cristo Rey interns have contracts to pay student wages directly to Cristo Rey schools. These wages then reduce individual tuitions, lowering the annual cost to approximately $2500 for the students.
In addition to taking all of the Cristo Rey high school courses, each student seeking a reduced tuition joins a team of three of his or her classmates for summer classes to prepare for the world of work. Members of the student internship teams then work five days a month in a professional office setting, in addition to their school studies.
The result is a win-win model for sustainability. The interns bring new talent for the affiliated organizations on a part-time basis. Employers benefit from the spirit and enthusiasm of Cristo Rey students and from the contracts for affordable part-time clerical work. Students benefit from a higher quality education than found in most public schools, with their tuition costs largely borne by employers. While at work, students gain practical skills, see first-hand a range of career possibilities, and gain confidence in their future prospects.
Cristo Rey now earns over $22 million each year from the work-study partnerships and has a growing network of satisfied employers and students who are receiving a quality education while gaining professional work experience. The system has led to a 99% acceptance rate of Cristo Rey students into college programs. The model appears to be effective, sustainable, and scalable for independent schools, although the model may be limited in its applicability to public schools because of constraints in entering into revenue-sharing agreements with employers. Cristo Rey Network ®, with the support of the Gates Foundation and other backers, is aiming to educate 12,000 youth through the use of 30 different schools by the year 2012, with the aim of providing affordable, safe and high quality education -- and a future rich with professional opportunities -- for economically disadvantaged youths.
The Cristo Rey model offers a potentially widely applicable innovation for entrepreneurial high schools to keep tuitions affordable, and to help students from impoverished areas succeed in college and in the workforce.