Cooke Prize for Equity in Educational Excellence

The Cooke Prize for Equity in Educational Excellence is a $1 million prize awarded by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation to a selective college or university with an excellent record of admitting, supporting and graduating outstanding low-income students.

Cooke Prize Winners

UNC-Chapel Hill is North Carolina’s public state flagship university. The institution ranks among top research universities while remaining committed to low-income students through its initiatives for outreach, financial aid, and student support.

Approximately 22 percent of UNC-Chapel Hill’s 18,500 undergraduate students are eligible for Pell Grants. The university provides low-debt, full-need student financial aid and admits students on a need-blind basis. Its Carolina Covenant program provides debt-free financial aid for the lowest-income students. In addition to helping to pay for tuition, fees, and room and board, financial aid is available for travel, health insurance, personal expenses, books and supplies. UNC-Chapel Hill established programs such as 1st Look, Carolina College Advising Corps, and Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program allow UNC-Chapel Hill to engage low-income students in middle school, high school, and community college.

Learn more about UNC-Chapel Hill’s accomplishments toward higher education equity in our press release and the video above. Additionally, our new report “State University No More”  discusses the significance of public flagship universities.

2017 Finalists

Brown University. At this private university, 34 percent of aided undergraduate students are low-income (family income below $60,000), and 16 percent are eligible to receive federal Pell Grants. Financial aid packages for most students from families earning below $100,000 annually do not include loans. Brown recently opened a First-Generation College and Low-Income Student Center to help students transition to and succeed on campus.

Rice University. This private university meets 100 percent of students’ demonstrated financial need. Students with family incomes below $80,000 are not required to take out loans. The university takes into account hardships that low-income students have faced when considering admission.

Stanford University.  A private university where students from families with annual incomes of less than $125,000 are not charged tuition, and those from families earning less than $65,000 are also not charged for room and board. The university runs a national outreach program to recruit low-income students, including a program that brings high school counselors from low-income communities to the university.

The University of California, Berkeley. More than 65 percent of undergraduates at this public university receive financial aid and more than 30 percent are eligible for Pell Grants. When determining admission, Berkeley takes into account the context in which high school students have excelled, including overcoming hardships while demonstrating academic achievement. At the core of the university’s equity and access efforts are symbiotic programs to help holistically develop students as early as K-12 and through community college and their time at Berkeley.

Amherst College is a liberal arts college that began participating in the Cooke Foundation’s Community College Transfer Initiative in 2006, and increased enrollment of community college transfer students from zero or one annually to 12-15 each year. The initiative also helped Amherst build an infrastructure to better meet the needs of transfer students, military veterans, first-generation, and low-income college students. Amherst provides low-income students with funding for educational travel, study abroad, and stipends for otherwise unpaid internships and career development mentoring. It is shaping programs to meet the social, psychological, and health needs of all students.

The Cooke Prize was first awarded in 2015, going to Vassar College in New York. Vassar raised its percentage of low-income students (those eligible for Pell Grants) by 11 percent since 2008 – more than any other college ranked “most competitive” by Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges. About 23 percent of Vassar’s freshmen are eligible to receive Pell Grants. View the video below to learn more about our inaugural Cooke Prize winner and why the foundation chooses to honor these initiatives.

Cooke Prize Winners

2017: UNC-Chapel Hill

UNC-Chapel Hill is North Carolina’s public state flagship university. The institution ranks among top research universities while remaining committed to low-income students through its initiatives for outreach, financial aid, and student support.

Approximately 22 percent of UNC-Chapel Hill’s 18,500 undergraduate students are eligible for Pell Grants. The university provides low-debt, full-need student financial aid and admits students on a need-blind basis. Its Carolina Covenant program provides debt-free financial aid for the lowest-income students. In addition to helping to pay for tuition, fees, and room and board, financial aid is available for travel, health insurance, personal expenses, books and supplies. UNC-Chapel Hill established programs such as 1st Look, Carolina College Advising Corps, and Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program allow UNC-Chapel Hill to engage low-income students in middle school, high school, and community college.

Learn more about UNC-Chapel Hill’s accomplishments toward higher education equity in our press release and the video above. Additionally, our new report “State University No More”  discusses the significance of public flagship universities.

2017 Finalists

Brown University. At this private university, 34 percent of aided undergraduate students are low-income (family income below $60,000), and 16 percent are eligible to receive federal Pell Grants. Financial aid packages for most students from families earning below $100,000 annually do not include loans. Brown recently opened a First-Generation College and Low-Income Student Center to help students transition to and succeed on campus.

Rice University. This private university meets 100 percent of students’ demonstrated financial need. Students with family incomes below $80,000 are not required to take out loans. The university takes into account hardships that low-income students have faced when considering admission.

Stanford University.  A private university where students from families with annual incomes of less than $125,000 are not charged tuition, and those from families earning less than $65,000 are also not charged for room and board. The university runs a national outreach program to recruit low-income students, including a program that brings high school counselors from low-income communities to the university.

The University of California, Berkeley. More than 65 percent of undergraduates at this public university receive financial aid and more than 30 percent are eligible for Pell Grants. When determining admission, Berkeley takes into account the context in which high school students have excelled, including overcoming hardships while demonstrating academic achievement. At the core of the university’s equity and access efforts are symbiotic programs to help holistically develop students as early as K-12 and through community college and their time at Berkeley.

2016: Amherst College

Amherst College is a liberal arts college that began participating in the Cooke Foundation’s Community College Transfer Initiative in 2006, and increased enrollment of community college transfer students from zero or one annually to 12-15 each year. The initiative also helped Amherst build an infrastructure to better meet the needs of transfer students, military veterans, first-generation, and low-income college students. Amherst provides low-income students with funding for educational travel, study abroad, and stipends for otherwise unpaid internships and career development mentoring. It is shaping programs to meet the social, psychological, and health needs of all students.

2015: Vassar College

The Cooke Prize was first awarded in 2015, going to Vassar College in New York. Vassar raised its percentage of low-income students (those eligible for Pell Grants) by 11 percent since 2008 – more than any other college ranked “most competitive” by Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges. About 23 percent of Vassar’s freshmen are eligible to receive Pell Grants. View the video below to learn more about our inaugural Cooke Prize winner and why the foundation chooses to honor these initiatives.

Contact Us

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation typically awards only a limited number of grants to nonprofit organizations whose efforts complement our mission of advancing the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need. We rarely, if ever, fund unsolicited proposals.

However, if you would like to be added to our outreach list to receive Foundation news updates and information about future opportunities that may match your work, email your contact information to grants@jkcf.org.