Cooke Foundation Releases Report on Increasing Access for Community College Students to Four-Year Colleges

LANSDOWNE, VA – Many more community college students could succeed at four-year colleges and universities, says a report released today by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, if only they were given the right tools and the opportunity. At present, while the majority of community college students aspire to complete a bachelor’s degree, as few as 12% manage to do so.

Transfer students face tremendous barriers, including a lack of adequate advising, limited financial aid, and confusing credit transfer policies. The report, “Breaking Down Walls: Increasing Access to Four-Year Colleges for High-Achieving Community College Students,” demonstrates, however, that when given proper support, community college students succeed academically even at the country’s elite colleges.

“We do ourselves a disservice as a society by denying gifted students the opportunity to fulfill their potential simply because their academic careers started at a two-year institution,” said Foundation Executive Director Harold O. Levy. “The message for both colleges and education policymakers is clear: where a student began her studies should not ineluctably determine her entire academic career or her life chances.”

Through its Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has shown that community college students can thrive at the most prestigious four-year institutions. Cooke Scholars have excelled despite coming from less-advantaged backgrounds. Many, in fact, are the first in their families to attend college, and their families often have incomes below the poverty level. Overall, 97% of Cooke Scholars earn their bachelor’s degree within three years, including one in ten graduating from the Ivy League.

“Community colleges can no longer be considered the weaklings of academia, as students who attend them often equal or surpass their new peers at four-year colleges and universities,” said Levy. “It is time to remove the barriers that deny too many gifted community college students the opportunity to gain an education commensurate with their abilities and deprive the nation of their potential contribution.”

Making it easier to transfer from community to four-year colleges, the report concludes, would benefit not just students but also these same institutions of higher education. Community colleges must improve transfer advising, and four-year colleges and universities must both expand their recruitment of community college students with successful academic records and better support them once they enroll.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is dedicated to advancing the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need. By offering the largest scholarships in the country, in-depth academic counseling and other direct services, the Foundation seeks to help high- performing, low-income students to develop their talents and excel educationally. In addition to providing students both counseling and financial support from middle school to graduate school, the Foundation also provides grants for noteworthy and innovative initiatives that support high- performing, low-income students. Founded in 2000, the Foundation has awarded over $125 million in scholarships to 1,800 students and $79 million in grants.