Media Release: Community College Students Succeed on Four-Year Campuses When Provided Resources Study Finds

Lansdowne, VA – High-achieving community college students from low- to  moderate- income backgrounds succeed academically and contribute to the intellectual life of their campuses at highly selective four-year institutions when provided the opportunity to transfer and adequate financial aid according to Partnerships that Promote Success, a program evaluation of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s Community College Transfer Initiative (CCTI) conducted by Brandeis University.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has funded 14 highly selective colleges and universities from 2006-2014 through the initiative, with a long term goal to promote sustainable increases in the number of high-achieving low- to moderate-income community college students who transfer to, and succeed at, selective four-year institutions. With the Foundation’s support, these institutions developed programs, policies, and partnerships with community colleges to improve student preparation, assistance with admission and financial aid, orientation and “bridge” programs, and post-admission support.

“Despite the high-profile national agenda to improve college outcomes for low-income and underrepresented students, data show that as few as 12 percent of community college students who express an intention to transfer and complete a bachelor’s degree actually do so,” said Emily Froimson, vice president of programs at the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. “Unfortunately, these same students are much more likely to start their postsecondary education at community colleges than at four-year institutions, meaning statistically, earning a bachelor’s degree is further out of reach for them.”

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation supported an evaluation of eight CCTI institutions in order to gain insights into institutional practices that best support transfer students. Findings from this evaluation include:

  • CCTI students performed well academically, collectively maintaining a 3.0 GPA, earning 95% of the credits they attempted, and persevering to graduation. They also became campus leaders and formed campus organizations.
  • Two-year colleges enriched their institutional transfer culture, improved advising programs, and enhanced efforts to develop more rigorous curricular and honors programs.
  • At four-year institutions, the CCTI contributed to cross-campus collaboration and communication, and increased the diversity of the student body in terms of life experiences, income, and maturity.

Lessons learned from the CCTI initiative include:

  • High levels of institutional readiness and buy-in are associated with more effective and sustainable programs; “paving the way” may be as important as program design.
  • For maximum success, institutions must find and prepare the right students and support them through and after transfer.
  • The most effective and sustainable programs had the most robust partnerships between community colleges and four-year institutions.

“Selective colleges can and should play an active role in creating partnerships with community colleges that establish transfer pathways to their institutions. After all, selective colleges graduate greater proportions of their students, particularly low-income students, than do less-selective institutions,” said Froimson. “This study provides a roadmap to build such partnerships that may well serve as an important means to helping greater numbers of low-income and underrepresented populations realize their academic aspirations.”

To read the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s key points and full report from the evaluation, visit



The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is a private, independent foundation dedicated to advancing the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need. Because we believe that high-potential, low-income students will excel educationally when given the resources to develop their talents, the Foundation supports exceptional students from elementary school to graduate school through scholarships, grants, direct service, and knowledge creation and dissemination. Founded in 2000 by the estate of Jack Kent Cooke, the Foundation has awarded $120 million for over 2,000 scholarships and $76 million in grants to organizations that support our mission.