JKCF Comments on White House's Free Community College Proposal

LANSDOWNE, VA – The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation issues the following statement in response to the White House’s America’s College Promise proposal for tuition-free community college education for responsible students. The following statement is attributed to Harold O. Levy, executive director of Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, which provides scholarships to exceptionally high-achieving students with financial need. Levy was New York City schools chancellor from 2000-2002.

“President Obama’s proposal to make community college free for essentially all students acknowledges that to be successful in today’s workforce, education needs to go beyond high school. This proposal goes a long way to further the nation’s goal to increase the college completion rate.  My experience when I was New York City schools Chancellor – in helping to start the early-college high school movement and in creating close collaboration with the City University of New York – confirms this. Because community college is an on-ramp to a four-year degree for many, particularly low-income and first-generation college students, this effort will also enable more students to qualify for jobs that increasingly require a bachelor’s degree.

While I applaud the White House proposal, four-year colleges must do their part to facilitate transfer to their campuses.  For example, institutional aid offered to transfer students is often much less than what is offered to freshmen entering the same college or university, making the cost associated with earning a four-year degree still unattainable for too many.  A recent Jack Kent Cooke Foundation evaluation of multiple transfer partnerships found that four-year colleges need to make transferring credit easier, eliminating the need for transferring students to repeat classes and spend more money to earn a degree. For the President’s proposal to succeed, colleges and universities must also provide transfer-specific orientation and post-transfer support for students on their campuses. Only in this way will the President’s proposal actually improve the likelihood of students completing their four-year degree and maximizing their college experience.

Finally, as a proponent of high-achieving, low-income students, the foundation is concerned that this proposal may inadvertently exacerbate the ‘undermatch’ issue, meaning low-income students who are qualified to enroll in a selective higher education institution with high completion rates may  instead choose to enroll in a community college. The Administration’s efforts to improve college advising for low-income and first-generation college-bound students – as evidenced by the recent White House College opportunity Summit in which we participated – should help mitigate these concerns.”


The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is dedicated to advancing the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need. Because the Foundation believes that high-performing, low-income students will excel educationally when given the resources to develop their talents, the Foundation offers them support from middle school to graduate school by providing the largest scholarships in the country, in-depth academic counseling, and other direct services.  The Foundation also provides grants to prominent organizations that support high performing, low-income students with innovative programming. Founded in 2000 by the estate of Jack Kent Cooke, the Foundation has awarded over $125 million in scholarships to 1,800 students and $79 million in grants. www.jkcf.org