Advancing the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need

Foundation Begins $7 Million Initiative to Give Community College Students New Opportunities at America's Best Colleges


Foundations Begin $7 Million Initiative to Give Community College Students New Opportunities at America's Most Selective Colleges


Three Foundations Fund National Research Team Examining 
Transfer Practices at Elite Institutions

LANSDOWNE, VA - Recently, schools such as Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and the University of Virginia have demonstrated their interest in enrolling students from low-income families by allowing qualified freshmen from such families to attend without taking on loan debt. But the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation believes there is another important way top universities can enroll more high-ability students from working poor families: by recruiting, admitting, and offering scholarships to the best community college students. Community colleges today enroll 6.5 million students (45% of all undergraduates in US higher education), including the vast percentage of low- to moderate-income students.

Recognizing that some of America's best students attend two-year schools, the Foundation is today initiating a $7-million grant project designed to increase the number of low-income community college students that highly selective universities enroll. "The best community college students from low-income backgrounds have all the talent and drive required to succeed at great universities," said Matthew J. Quinn, the Foundation's executive director and a former college president. "This project will help the most selective colleges and universities do a better job of recruiting and enrolling an outstanding and economically diverse group of students."

The Foundation's investment is focusing on several results, including the following:

  • Identifying admissions practices already in place at selective schools that other institutions can replicate to enable greater numbers of outstanding community college students from working poor families to enter and graduate from selective four-year schools.
  • Hosting a national conference in spring 2006 that will allow experts to discuss and generate strategies for increasing the number of low-income community college students that transfer to selective four-year schools.
  • Awarding five grants of $1 million each in spring 2006 to five selective institutions that agree to build exemplary community college transfer recruitment and enrollment initiatives.
  • To initiate this project, the Foundation is joining with two other prominent foundations - the Nellie Mae Education Foundation (Quincy, MA) and Lumina Foundation for Education (Indianapolis, IN) - to support an unprecedented national study of the transfer opportunities that selective schools offer to high-ability, low-income community college students.

Following a national call for research proposals, the foundations are today awarding a $516,000 grant to a research team from University of Massachusetts Boston's New England Resource Center for Higher Education (NERCHE) that will work in collaboration with scholars from the University of Southern California's (USC) Center for Urban Education and Tomás Rivera Policy Institute. The team will determine, among other expected findings, the number of low-income community college students that selective four-year colleges and universities admit each year, how well these students perform, and what successful models exist at selective four-year schools for recruiting, admitting, retaining, and graduating these students.

By fall 2006, this project will have put in place the data and programs required to demonstrate to all four-year colleges that the best community college students warrant recruitment and scholarship programs. The new initiative and the research investment announced today begin the pursuit of this goal.


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. The Foundation's scholarship programs include the largest scholarships in the US for community college transfer students - up to $30,000 per year to students and recent alumni from community college who have both academic merit and financial need and want to pursue a bachelor's degree at a four-year institution. The Foundation also provides scholarships to graduate and high school students as well as grants to organizations that serve high-achieving students with financial need.

Lumina Foundation for Education
Lumina Foundation for Education, an Indianapolis-based, private, independent foundation, strives to help people achieve their potential by expanding access and success in education beyond high school. Through grants for research, innovation, communication, and evaluation, as well as policy education and leadership development, Lumina Foundation addresses issues that affect access and educational attainment among all students, particularly underserved student groups, including adult learners. The Foundation bases its mission on the belief that post-secondary education remains one of the most beneficial investments that individuals can make in themselves and that society can make in its people. For more details on the Foundation, visit the website at Contact: Ms. Dollyne Sherman at 317-951-5493.

Nellie Mae Education Foundation
Based in Quincy, Massachusetts, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation is the largest philanthropy in New England that focuses exclusively on promoting access, quality, and effectiveness of education. Established in 1998, the Foundation provides grants and other support to education programs in New England that are designed to improve low-income and underserved students' academic achievement and access to higher education. Since 1998, the Foundation has awarded $44 million in grants and support to education programs in the region. For more details on the Foundation, visit the website at Contact: Mr. Nicholas Lorenzen, 781-348-4239.


The research team, led by Dr. Alicia Dowd and Dr. Glenn Gabbard from University of Massachusetts Boston's (UMB) New England Resource Center for Higher Education (NERCHE), comprise a pool of talent with extensive expertise in higher education research generally, and community colleges and selective institutions specifically. The research team also has broad experience in qualitative and quantitative research methodologies. The other members of the research team are Dr. Dwight Giles, acting director of NERCHE, Dr. Estela Bensimon, director of USC's Center for Urban Education, Dr. Elsa Macias, a senior research associate in USC's Tomas Rivera Policy Institute, Dr. Tatiana Melguizo, an assistant professor in USC's Rossier School of Education, Dr. Jay Dee, co-director of UMB's New England Center for Inclusive Teaching, and Dr. John Cheslock, an assistant professor the University of Arizona's Center for the Study of Higher Education. Contact: Dr. Dwight Giles: 617-287-7740. NERCHE website:






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