March 2024 Newsletter

A group of 2023 Cooke Transfer Scholars pose together at last year’s annual Scholars Weekend conference.

In this issue, I am sharing important new information that shows progress on improving outcomes for transfer students has unfortunately stagnated. Revisiting the transfer landscape more than six years after their last comprehensive study, the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program (CEP) and the Community College Research Center (CCRS) at Teachers College, Columbia University—as well as the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center—discovered that the needle has barely moved.

A 2016 report by CCRC and Aspen found that while 80 percent of community college students wanted to earn a bachelor’s degree, just 14 percent went on to transfer and graduate with a four-year degree. The new findings are distressingly familiar: just 16 percent of those students earn a bachelor’s degree within six years.

This news is disappointing given the concerted efforts by institutions and organizations in recent years. The latest reports—one focusing on four-year institutions, the other on two-year colleges—are not totally devoid of hope, however. They don’t just highlight the challenges colleges and students are facing, but also present concrete strategies that are making an impact.

Among these recommendations: ensuring presidential-level commitment to prioritizing transfer student support, expanding dual enrollment opportunities, focusing more intently on timely bachelor’s completion, encouraging associate degree completion before transfer, and increasing transfer rates to selective institutions.

“What we are seeing isn’t new,” Ben Fresquez, a senior program manager with CEP who supports the program’s Transfer Scholars Network, recently told me. “We know what works: prioritizing transfer, mobilizing presidents around it, and making sure transfer students have comprehensive resources through and after the transfer process.”

Ben also noted how critical funding is to this equation. Transfer students often have far fewer scholarships available to them compared to first-time, first-year learners. That’s why the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has supported more than 1,200 students through our Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. Our Transfer Scholars have access to generous financial support, ongoing advising, and—crucially—opportunities to connect with a thriving community of fellow transfer students.

It’s also why we are a proud partner of the Transfer Scholar Network. Even students who manage to successfully transfer to a four-year institution face a range of hurdles on their path to earning a bachelor’s degree. Much of that stems from a confounding disconnect between two- and four-year institutions. For instance, research shows that students lose about 43 percent of their credits during the transfer process. The Transfer Scholars Network bridges the gap between community colleges, four-year institutions, and the students they aim to serve.

The lack of progress in transfer outcomes is a stark reminder of how much work we still have ahead of us. But we know first-hand just how brilliant, determined, and ambitious transfer students are. We are as committed as ever to doing our part to ensure these learners achieve their immense potential.

Warm regards,

Seppy Basili


Cooke Foundation Highlights

  • Awa Cisse, a senior at Yale College and Cooke Transfer Scholar from Georgia State-Perimeter College, is one of three Yale students awarded the prestigious Luce Scholarship, designed to foster cultural exchanges and professional experiences in Asia for emerging leaders. Cisse is pursuing two bachelor’s degrees, one in molecular biology and another in French studies. Her work at the Yale School of Public Health focuses on developing effective malaria treatments, underscoring her commitment to global health challenges. The Luce Scholarship will provide Cisse with the opportunity to immerse herself in a new cultural context, furthering her professional and personal development while contributing to her long-term goal of addressing healthcare equity and access.
  • In 2008, after graduating from the Harvard Kennedy School, Kevin Curry, a 2006 Cooke Graduate Scholar, found himself jobless due to the stock market crash, leading to a period of depression and unhealthy eating habits. Wanting to get healthy, he learned all he could about diet and nutrition and began sharing his cooking adventures on a blog. Ultimately, this journey led him to found the Fit Men Cook online community. Fit Men Cook (or sometimes just called The Fit Cook) provides recipes, resources, and wellness products for everyone, reflecting Kevin’s belief in inclusive health and fitness. Kevin actively engages in community service and international advocacy, focusing on nutrition and fighting hunger. His advice emphasizes the importance of mental wellness, setting personal health goals, and avoiding the pitfalls of social media comparison. Read more here.
  • Join us! Tammie Stewart of the Center for Talent Development will lead a similar workshop on March 26 and April 6, aiming to detail the Young Scholars Program and guide students in starting their applications, with all sessions requiring prior registration.
  • Cooke Foundation Grantee Matriculate, a virtual college advising program for high-achieving, low-income high school juniors and seniors, is accepting applications for the class of 2024. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis through August, or until the class is full. Eligible students must be on track to graduate high school in 2025, attend high school in the U.S. (no citizenship required), have an annual income of less than $90,000, and an unweighted GPA of 3.5 or higher with a rigorous course load and/or high test scores. Know a student who might be a good fit? Learn more here.

News for High-Achieving Students

  • The Albert Einstein College of Medicine announced it would become tuition-free for all students, thanks to a substantial $1 billion donation. By eliminating tuition, the college seeks to make medical education more accessible and diverse, encouraging other institutions to follow suit.
  • More than half of college graduates are working in jobs that do not require their degrees, according to a recent study of 10 million job market entrants. This underemployment has significant long-term effects on graduates’ earnings and career trajectories. The study underscores the critical importance of an individual’s first job for long-term career success, as well as the impact of a student’s major and internships on securing college-level employment.
  • Ad Astra’s new “2024 Benchmark Report” reveals a direct correlation between the number of credits a student completes annually and their chances of degree retention and completion, challenging the traditional part-time/full-time classification. The report emphasizes the importance of moving beyond simply encouraging students to switch from part-time to full-time status, suggesting that even small increases in course load can dramatically improve completion rates, especially for underrepresented groups.

What We’re Reading

eCampusNewsCommunity college boosts mental health support for rural, working students

Cal MattersGetting paid to go to school? California’s community colleges try it out

The Chronicle of Higher EducationCanceling Student Debt Won’t Fix Higher Education. Donors Must Think Bigger.

American Legion Tuition assistance program for service members needs more funding, more awareness as recruiting tool

Higher Ed DiveSome employers are wary of Gen Z workers. What can colleges do?