What need does the Cristo Rey Network address?

The Cristo Rey Network addresses the fact that fewer than one in ten low-income students who begin high school complete a postsecondary degree by age 24 (Carnevale, Anthony. “Views: College Is Still Worth It - Inside Higher Ed.” Inside Higher Ed. Web. 14 Jan. 2011.). The impact of that national statistic is compounded by the growing importance of college completion to career advancement. Indeed, according to Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, experts predict that by 2020 65% of all U.S. jobs will require some form of postsecondary education. The adverse effects of these trends are clear: without college degrees, low-income youth will face enormous obstacles in transcending poverty and building professionally fulfilling and economically stable lives.

Over the last two decades, some have questioned whether Catholic schools could play a significant role in responding to these stark educational and career preparation challenges. Since 2000, the U.S. has witnessed the closing of approximately 2,000 Catholic K-12 schools, particularly inner-city Catholic high schools with a longstanding history of serving low-income students.

During a period when traditional Catholic schools were shuttering their doors at an alarming rate, the Cristo Rey Network has grown into the largest network of high schools in the country that exclusively serves low-income students.

Today, however, there is reason for new faith in the power of Catholic education. Catholic School Renaissance, published in October 2015 by The Philanthropy Roundtable, reports “Catholic educators and donors have responded to these downtrends and American K-12 Catholic schooling is now reorganizing to bounce back.”

With a proven track record of student results and successful school replication, the Cristo Rey movement is a vibrant and innovative contributor to this positive forecast and poised to have 20,000 students in the next decade.

Who do Cristo Rey Network schools serve?

Cristo Rey Network schools remain steadfastly focused on serving students who could not otherwise have access to a quality high school education. Cristo Rey schools do not focus their recruiting on academically high-performing, low-income students. Indeed, on average, Cristo Rey students arrive in ninth grade two grade levels behind academically because, through no fault of their own, they have not had the benefit of access to quality instruction in grades K-8. That means that Cristo Rey schools must routinely target roughly six years of learning gains during four years of high school.

This school year, Cristo Rey schools serve 10,933 underserved high school students, 14-18 years of age. 58% are female and 42% are male. Cristo Rey students come from families whose overall average income is $37,000 for a family of four. Around 80% percent of Cristo Rey students qualify for the federal free or reduced lunch program, and 98% are young people of color (63% Hispanic, 30% Black, 5% Other, and 2% Caucasian).

Do students have to be Catholic to enroll at a Cristo Rey school?

Students do not have to be Catholic to enroll at a Cristo Rey school. Our schools admit students inclusive of all faiths and cultures. On average, 40% of Cristo Rey students are not Catholic.

How are Cristo Rey schools funded?

Students earn a majority of their education cost through the Corporate Work Study Program (CWSP), which provides our schools with a sustainable revenue model that does not rely solely on tuition, traditional fundraising, or government funding. When a Cristo Rey school reaches full enrollment (400-600 students), the financial model reflects 60% of funds earned through CWSP, 30% secured through fundraising, and 10% collected from a modest family contribution (on average $1,000 per family).

Cristo Rey schools located in choice states that offer vouchers or education tax credits have access to an additional revenue source that further increases the schools’ long-term sustainability. Roughly 85% of revenue can be secured year over year through a combination of CWSP revenue and vouchers or education tax credits.

What is the Corporate Work Study Program?

The Corporate Work Study Program (CWSP) is a cornerstone of the Cristo Rey movement—the backbone of our financial sustainability, an indispensable component of our educational programs, and a major differentiator of our Network.

- Jane Genster
Board Member, Cristo Rey Network

The Corporate Work Study Program (a separately incorporated entity) operates like a temporary employment agency within Cristo Rey schools and employs every student five full days a month in an entry-level, professional job all four years of high school. Students earn a majority of their education cost while gaining real-world work experience that strengthens their cognitive and non-cognitive skill development, catalyzes confidence and aspiration, and prepares them for success in college and careers.

More than two decades ago, John P. Foley, S.J. and his team created the Corporate Work Study Program out of financial necessity to ensure Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago opened as both an academically rigorous and financially sustainable school. The innovative and unconventional model has since developed in a network of 35 Cristo Rey schools that collectively partner with 3,400 Corporate Partners.

How can students legally work?

The United States Department of Labor Code of Federal Regulations, 29 CFR § 570.37, specifically authorizes Cristo Rey Network schools to operate the Corporate Work Study Program within federal child labor laws. Each local Corporate Work Study Program is committed to full compliance with the federal regulation in addition to respective state labor laws. To learn more, contact Cristo Rey Network General Counsel Brian Melton at 312-784-7206 or bmelton@cristoreynetwork.org.

How does Cristo Rey support graduates after high school?

Since the first Cristo Rey school opened in 1996, college enrollment and completion has been our goal for our students; consequently, the Cristo Rey Network and our schools offer a wide range of support for graduates on their path to and through college.

  • Alumni Advising: The Cristo Rey Network is at the forefront of the alumni support field developing within the higher education landscape. More than half of our schools employ full-time alumni advisors who work with seniors from the second semester of their senior year through their college commencement, providing a range of support, advocacy, and connectivity to Cristo Rey graduates that helps ensure their college persistence and completion.
  • Alumni Tracking and Support: The Cristo Rey Network has enhanced our alumni data collection and management efforts through the implementation of AlumniConnect, a platform that provides Alumni Advisors with a robust system for tracking and supporting graduates during college by tailoring outreach and intervention strategies to keep alumni on track towards their degree.
  • On campus programming by University Partners: The Cristo Rey Network has formed and developed strategic partnerships with 48 University Partners that offer competitive financial aid packages and/or programming geared to and supportive of first generation and low-income students on campus.
  • Scholarships: In spring 2016, the Cristo Rey Network announced the Cristo Rey Howley Scholarship Program, a collaboration with The Howley Family Foundation that awards approximately $1 million of supplemental four-year grants to Cristo Rey high school graduates enrolling in University Partner schools to help ensure that they have the necessary financial resources to graduate from college.

How can I open a Cristo Rey school in my city?

The process of opening a Cristo Rey Network school in your city begins with a Feasibility Study, a thorough assessment of the following criteria deemed critical for the success of a Cristo Rey school:

  • Community Need: Is there a need for a Cristo Rey school and who needs the school?
  • Religious Affiliation: What religious congregation will sponsor or endorse the Cristo Rey school?
  • Business Community Support: Are there a sufficient number of Corporate Work Study Program job placements to ensure that the school remains financially sustainable?
  • Site selection: How will the school be situated in the community between the families it serves and the businesses where students work?
  • Sustainability: Can start-up and ongoing needs be met by available funding sources?

All Feasibility Studies must be sanctioned by the local diocese and the group applying to conduct a study must submit a letter from the local Bishop to the Cristo Rey Network national office granting permission to commence the Feasibility Study. For more information, contact our School Growth Team.

How does Cristo Rey measure performance and success?

The Cristo Rey Network annually collects, analyzes, and reports data on all aspects of school performance and operations to support the continuous, measurable, and meaningful improvement of all of our schools. To make the performance data actionable, the Network offers professional development opportunities, advice on analytical approaches, and resources on best practices.

Who are the Religious Sponsors and Endorsers of Cristo Rey schools?

38 Religious Sponsors and Endorsers, from local dioceses to religious orders and communities, support individual Cristo Rey schools. Religious Sponsors and Endorsers are primarily responsible for the religious charism and Catholicity of our schools.

While the first Cristo Rey school was started by the Society of Jesus and today the Jesuits sponsor and endorse 13 schools, the Cristo Rey Network is not exclusively Jesuit and is blessed to have the active involvement of 38 Religious Sponsors and Endorsers.