Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Announces New 2023 Grants to Support Student Success in STEM Fields

Lansdowne, VA – The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation announced two $1 million grants to two public research universities with a demonstrated record in advancing the success of underrepresented students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields: the University of California, Merced and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. 

The National Science Foundation’s recent report suggests that despite notable gains in the last decade, Black, Hispanic, American Indian, and Alaska Native students remain markedly underrepresented among bachelor’s degree recipients in the STEM fields – resulting in longstanding challenges to diversify and fill in-demand jobs. 

Both the University of California, Merced (UC Merced) and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) have been recognized nationally for innovative practices that encourage the participation and success of underrepresented students. UC Merced was awarded the 2021 Seal of Excelencia, which recognizes universities that demonstrate a robust enrollment, retention, financial support, and representation of Latinx/Latiné students. UMBC is the country’s number one producer of Black undergraduates who go on to earn doctorates in the life sciences and math and computer sciences combined, and also the nation’s leading producer of Black undergraduates who go on to earn the combined M.D. – Ph.D. (physician scientists).

“UC Merced and UMBC are models for our nation. Both schools have resolved to ensure that all students — especially students from underrepresented backgrounds — are set up to succeed from day one in rigorous STEM classes,” said Seppy Basili, executive director of the Cooke Foundation. “In advancement of our mission to help exceptional students reach their fullest potential, we are honored to support the work of these important institutions.”

The new grants will establish two funds: the first to help current students with financial need advance to graduation, and a second endowed scholarship program to increase the institutions’ long-term ability to meet the financial needs of their student population. These grants are part of a $7 million commitment to supporting underrepresented student success in STEM fields. To date, the Foundation has granted $1 million to each of the following: Alabama A&M University (2021), Florida A&M University (2021), Morgan State University (2022), Norfolk State University (2021), and North Carolina A&T State University (2021).

UC Merced has the largest percentage of Pell-eligible students in the University of California  system, a majority of which are STEM majors (54 percent). With resources available on campus like the STEM Tutoring Hub and the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), providing support and guidance for academic enrichment in this field of study has led to successful rates of completion amongst graduates. In the class of 2021, 66 percent of first generation students and 52 percent of Latinx/Latiné students received a bachelor’s degree in STEM. 

“We are grateful for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s abiding commitment to ensuring that promising students confronting financial hardship have the resources to pursue postsecondary education,” said Vice Chancellor and Chief External Relations Officer E. Edward Klotzbier. “The achievements of the unique and motivated students supported by these scholarships will benefit not only our community, but the world as a whole, and UC Merced is grateful to the Foundation for helping these young people reach their full potential.”

UMBC has one of the country’s most diverse undergraduate communities, with more than 60 percent of its students being from minority groups. UMBC has been at the forefront of efforts to increase diversity and student success in STEM, particularly through the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, which supports undergraduate students of all backgrounds who plan to pursue doctoral study in the sciences or engineering and who are interested in the advancement of minorities in those fields. The program has served as a national model that has been replicated by several other institutions. 

“The Meyerhoff Scholars Program is one example of how UMBC has long worked to redefine excellence in higher education,” said UMBC President Valerie Sheares Ashby. “We are deeply grateful for the partnership of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and its support in the form of this new grant, which will allow us to touch even more lives and advance inclusive excellence in the State of Maryland and beyond.”

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For more than 20 years, the Cooke Foundation has dedicated its mission to advancing the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need. Since 2000, the Foundation has awarded almost $250 million in scholarships to nearly 3,200 students from 8th grade through graduate school, along with comprehensive educational advising and other support services. The Foundation has also provided $131 million in grants to organizations that serve such students. www.jkcf.org  

Media Contact: Julia Florence, media@jkcf.org