Advancing the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need

$27 Million National Foundation Partners with Eight Top Universities to Focus on Transforming College Access for Low-Income Community College Students


LANSDOWNE, VA – The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and eight renowned colleges and universities today announce an investment of $27 million to markedly increase the opportunities for high-achieving low-income community college students to earn bachelor’s degrees from selective four-year institutions. It is the largest shared investment to date by leading colleges and universities to overcome the lack of opportunities low-income students have at such schools.

Through the investment, the Foundation, three public universities, and five private colleges and universities will build model programs that enable academically qualified low- to moderate-income community college students to transfer to selective schools in unprecedented numbers.

The eight colleges and universities are Amherst College, Bucknell University, Cornell University, Mount Holyoke College, the University of California-Berkeley, the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Southern California.

Their partnership with the Foundation responds to several trends impacting higher education’s efforts to provide opportunities for outstanding students, regardless of socioeconomic status, to earn a four-year degree:

  • Community colleges enroll 6.5 million students (45% of all undergraduates), including the majority of low- to moderate-income students.
  • Selective four-year institutions typically focus recruitment and financial aid on high school graduates, including scholarship and tuition remission programs for students from low-income families recently introduced at Harvard, Yale, the University of Virginia, and other institutions.
  • Only 10% of students at the top 146 highly selective colleges come from the bottom half of the socioeconomic status scale.
  • Only seven percent of young people from low socioeconomic backgrounds earn college degrees by age 26.
  • Research commissioned by the Foundation shows that more than one-third of community college transfer students graduated in the top two quartiles of their high school graduating classes.
  • The more selective the institution, the more likely a student enrolled there is to graduate with a four-year degree, particularly if the student comes from a low socioeconomic background.

“Our country has a treasure of untapped talent at our community colleges, including many outstanding students from low-income backgrounds,” said Dr. Matthew J. Quinn, the Foundation’s Executive Director. “This initiative will help selective colleges and universities achieve their goals of access and excellence and enable these students to graduate from the highest-ranking institutions. We will all benefit if every qualified student with financial need has such opportunities.”

To establish the initiative, the Foundation is awarding grants totaling $6.78 million to the eight partner institutions, and the recipients are in turn committing $20.5 million in financial aid and other resources to expand or develop community college transfer programs that reach out to and support transfer students. The eight institutions aim to develop on their campuses a set of programs and practices that can greatly expand opportunities for low-income students to earn four-year degrees. As part of the initiative, they will aggressively recruit, admit, and offer scholarships to the best community college students and participate in an evaluation of their efforts, the conclusions of which will be shared with higher education nationally.

Through these programs over the next four years, the eight recipients combined expect to enroll 1,100 new community college transfer students from low- to moderate-income backgrounds and provide another 2,100 with college access information and instructional services. The institutions will also partner with more than 50 community colleges as they build and develop their transfer programs. The button at the top right links to a list of the Foundation’s grant recipients.

The Foundation chose the eight institutions participating in the initiative following a national call for proposals to America’s 127 most selective colleges and universities. Forty-eight institutions submitted proposals. The eight grant recipients will pursue several goals, including

  • Reaching out to populations currently underrepresented in selective colleges.
  • Enrolling a combined 1,100 additional low- to middle-income community college transfers over the next four years, beginning in fall 2007.
  • Developing transfer programs for high-achieving, low- to moderate-income community college students that serve as models for other selective institutions to replicate.
  • Participating in a five-year study funded by the Foundation that evaluates the effectiveness of the programs and provides information and ideas to be shared nationally.
  • Building strong collaborations with their partner community colleges.
  • Committing to sustaining the program after the grant period.

In June 2006, the Foundation will host a national conference focused on strategies to increase the number of low-income community college students that transfer to selective four-year schools. The buttons at the top right link to a related opinion piece and brief stories of several community college transfer students who exemplify the type of students this program will help.


Jack Kent Cooke Foundation
The Foundation is a private, independent foundation established in 2000 by the estate of Jack Kent Cooke to help young people of exceptional promise reach their full potential through education. It focuses in particular on students with financial need. The Foundation’s programs include the largest scholarships in the U.S. for community college transfer students, scholarships to graduate and high school students, and grants to organizations that serve high-achieving students with financial need.






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