Fall 2020 Newsletter

Students gathering together in celebration.

October 28, 2020Receive the Cooke Chronicle in your inbox: Subscribe here.

Early research about the impact of COVID-19 has revealed a startling trend: students from low-income backgrounds are at great risk of delaying or changing college plans in response to the pandemic.

The economic fallout of COVID-19 has dramatically changed the financial situations of countless families. Students are struggling to pay for housing, food, books, and other necessities beyond the price of tuition and what is covered by traditional financial aid. Last spring, according to the National College Attainment Network, about 100,000 fewer high school seniors completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) than in the previous year.

Despite these troubling trends, as the fall semester continues, we are so inspired by our scholars and their commitment to their education even in such challenging circumstances. The decision to stay the course is indeed a difficult one, but it will pay off in the long run.

Perhaps it is my eternal optimism or maybe a more pragmatic hope that by shining a spotlight on those taking positive action, we’ll see others follow suit. But, I’ve been heartened to see a growing number of institutions demonstrate great ingenuity and empathy in these past few months to ensure our scholars have some of the help they need to continue their education. The University of Pennsylvania, for example, offered students COVID-19 summer savings grants. MIT provided each scholar with a $5,000 grant. Stanford University is covering students’ work-study programs and reducing student effort. These are important steps to take, and we implore other institutions to provide similar support.

And, many employers are stepping up too — finding ways to make virtual internships work, offering students valuable work experience that we know helps to prepare them for life after college. All 54 of our scholars, who received our internship stipend, for example, were able to complete an internship this summer even amidst the pandemic. But, we know that’s not always the case: in a new survey of undergraduate students by Strada Education Network, 26% of students had a job or internship cancelled due to COVID-19.

As always, we remain dedicated to — and motivated by — our scholars and those aspiring to stay enrolled and graduate. Together, we must keep pushing forward.

I want to remind our community of the opportunities we are so fortunate to provide to outstanding students who work hard but face financial difficulties. Applications for our College Scholarship Program and Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship are now open.  If a student or family comes to mind that would be an excellent candidate, please share these opportunities with them.

The Cooke College Scholarship Program is an undergraduate scholarship program awards up to $40,000 per year, and applications will be accepted through this Friday, October 30. Our Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship is awarded to top community college students who are seeking to complete their bachelor’s degrees at four-year colleges or universities, and applications will be accepted until January 6, 2021. Both of these scholarships can be completed using the Common App, simplifying the process for students. At the beginning of the new year, we’ll open up our scholarship program for middle school students.

As we all continue to navigate these unprecedented times, may we take the time to stop and celebrate the incredible resilience and determination of our nation’s college students — and may we challenge those of us who serve students to be thinking creatively about the solutions and supports that we can bring to bear in this moment.

Stay strong,

Seppy Basili


News For High-Achieving Students

The Wall Street Journal reported on a study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, that examined the social and emotional health of adults who were placed in accelerated coursework or skipped grades as school children. The research dispelled the myth that students in accelerated programs are at risk of social exclusion, and instead found that they were happy and well-adjusted as adults.

The Center for American Progress, this month, discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened barriers and limitations to access and success in advanced coursework such as Advanced Placement (AP) courses for low-income and minority students. Senior policy analyst Robby Chatterji argues that students deserve transparency about evaluation methods to receive college credit and effectively prepare for the exams.

The Washington Post covered The Fairfax County Public Schools Board approval of a proposal, submitted by Superintendent Scott Brabrand, that eliminates the famed admissions test at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. In addition, Brabrand’s proposal suggests that Fairfax assign 400 of 500 spots to “merit-based lottery” which will increase the enrollment of Black and Hispanic students after years of low minority admissions.

Cooke Foundation Highlights

2020 Jack Kent Cooke scholar, Aljon Celis, was recently highlighted in The Cullman Times for his academic success. He has started his freshman year at Stanford University. Celis, who is a first-generation immigrant from the Philippines, said he plans to major in international relations and hopefully one day work for the United States government.

Ángel Sánchez, a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar alum, was featured in the Sun Sentinel for his work to promote the right to vote for formerly incarcerated individuals. Sánchez, who was sentenced when he was 16 years old, was released from prison early after studying and learning that his original 30 year sentence was wrong. Ultimately, he graduated from law school at the University of Miami, with the highest marks, and was supported by a scholarship from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

What We’re Reading

The Wall Street Journal– ‘Who Gets In and Why’ and ‘The College Conversation’ Review: The Price of Admission (09/15/20)

EdSource– Many California high school seniors still want to take SAT/ACT even though they are optional at many colleges (09/08/2020)

The Washington Post– The latest crisis: Low-income students are dropping out of college this fall in alarming numbers (09/16/2020)

Breakthrough Collaborative– Breaking Through the Distance: How Relationships Foster Online Learning (October 2020)