August 2022 Newsletter

As we welcome the beginning of a new school year, there is plenty of much-needed good news in the higher education world this month. After several years of decline, FAFSA submissions increased by almost five percent this year – an encouraging fact, since this signals that more low-income students are considering going to college after the financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In other exciting news, the Biden administration announced the forgiveness of up to $20,000 of student loan debt for millions of Americans.

Biden’s plan also extends the pause on federal loan payments until at least January, meaning those with student loan debt can continue to catch their breath before they are required to start paying back their loans. Not every borrower is eligible – high-earners will still be required to pay back their full loans. And this policy only affects past student loans taken out before June of 2022, not future loans. However, single people who earn less than $125,000 per year (or $250,000 per year for married couples or heads of household) are eligible for at least $10,000 of loan forgiveness. Students who received a Pell Grant while they were in college could even be eligible for up to $20,000 of forgiveness.

While this is great news for Americans who have already graduated, we want to focus this month on the millions of rising college freshman and transfer students who have a huge decision to make in the near future: which four-year school to attend. While students often hear terms like “reach schools,” “target schools,” and “safety schools” when conducting their college search, we believe it’s time for the old-fashioned idea of the “safety school” to be scrapped altogether. Instead, students should think of these institutions as potential “thrive schools.” Often these colleges and universities can be a better fit for students than even their dream schools. We encourage every student to apply to thrive schools with the same enthusiasm as any other college or university on their list.

In-state colleges and universities are a great place to start. The close proximity of in-state schools means they are easier to visit, helping you get an especially clear sense of what a given campus is like. In-state tuition is also typically subsidized, so these schools tend to be much more affordable than out-of-state or private institutions. Typically, a state school that receives subsidies from its state government prefers students who reside within its borders since that subsidy comes from in-state tax revenue. For this reason, in-state students are also more likely to be accepted than out-of-state students – another reason to consider one as a potential thrive school.

The college search process can be overwhelming, but also incredibly exciting – we hope that reframing the idea of a “safety school,” and perhaps taking a closer look at your state’s public institutions will be a helpful starting point.

The perfect school is out there for every student. If paying for college is a financial barrier for a rising college freshman you know, we encourage them to consider applying to our Cooke College Scholarship Program that launched last week. Recipients are eligible for up to $55,000 per year to attend a selective four-year institution, and also receive comprehensive educational and career advising from our highly experienced Staff.

For those students and families embarking on their college search this year, we wish you the best of luck.

Warm regards,

Seppy Basili


News for High-Achieving Students:

A small but growing number of colleges, as well as the state of Minnesota are considering embracing the concept of direct admissions. The direct or automatic admissions model invites students to apply to and attend a college based on their grades and scores without having to go through a traditional application process. Earlier this month, Common App, the application service used by over a thousand colleges, announced that as many as 10 institutions have agreed to a second pilot on direct admissions for the upcoming school year. Research conducted by Common App found compelling evidence that impacts were strongest for Black or African American, Latinx, and first-generation students. Most notably, nearly nine percent of Black or African American students, and eight percent of Latinx students, responded to their direct admission offers by submitting an application.

College access leader, National College Attainment Network (NCAN), released their most recent data on FAFSA completion rates tracking states’ progress toward reaching 100 percent of high school seniors’ FAFSA completion. Having tracked FAFSA completion data for the past five cycles, NCAN’s tracker shows year-to-year comparisons at the national, state, city, school district, and school levels. With the most recent data, NCAN estimates that about 54 percent of the 2022 senior class completed a FAFSA, exceeding the classes of 2020 and 2021. The class of 2022’s FAFSA completion increases were driven by strong year-over-year gains from low-income public schools, where more than half of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, and high-minority public schools, where more than 40 percent of students are Black or Hispanic.

The New York Times examines how outgoing college president Freeman Hrabowski has transformed a once commuter school into the country’s strongest pipeline of Black graduates in science, technology, engineering, and math. Today, University of Maryland, Baltimore County is the nation’s top producer of Black undergraduates in STEM fields. Having retired earlier this month, Dr. Hrabowski intends to continue his work in a number of advising positions, including as the inaugural centennial fellow at the American Council on Education, the association that represents 1,700 college and university presidents.


Cooke Foundation Highlights:

2006 Graduate Scholar, Julius Onah, has been announced as the director for Marvel’s Captain America 4. In addition to taking on the latest installment from this popular franchise, Julius is working with Sam Esmail and Peter Glanz to develop the drama series The American Throne. Julius is known for directing The Cloverfield Paradox and the 2019 Neon drama Luce, based on J.C. Lee’s play of the same name, which made its world premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards, including Best Director.

2018 Cooke Transfer Scholar, Said D. Otwane, has returned this fall to his alma mater to teach coding technology at the Pearl River Community College Forrest County Campus. “I wanted to help build up and improve the institution that opened so many doors for me,” says Otwane. “I also wanted to help equip those who come after me with the tools and experiences I never got as I left PRCC.” Said is one of eight Cooke Scholar recipients in eight years at PRCC and the first to return to teach at the school.


What We’re Reading:

USA TodayAchievement gap in standardized testing was growing. COVID added fuel to the fire


Education Week’s –  Superintendent: Recruit More Black Male Educators, Get Tech in the Hands of All Students


MarketplaceAutomatic college admissions can be a boon to students and schools alike


Chalkbeat ColoradoColorado’s equity officer wants to narrow the broad gaps among college students