October 2022 Newsletter

The Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship is now open! High-achieving community college students with financial need who want to transfer to a four-year college or university in fall 2023 can click here to learn more

Earlier this month we celebrated National Transfer Student Week. Organized by the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students, this celebration is a time to salute transfer students and highlight their many accomplishments, as well as recommit to offering the kinds of support these learners need to succeed on their college journey. It’s also a great time to showcase the many benefits of attending community college before transferring to a four-year school.

“Community colleges are all about instruction so that’s what they focus on. I think that’s great for students, especially non-traditional students coming into or returning to higher education because they get that close, one-on-one support from their instructors,” says Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholar Ryan Liu about his community college experience.

We know our system of higher education does not always prioritize the success of transfer students. Research from the American Talent Initiative estimates that more than 50,000 community college students have the potential to excel at four-year institutions but never transfer. Community college students who transfer to selective institutions graduate on par with students who enrolled directly from high school or transferred from four-year institutions, but make up just five percent of students at elite institutions.

Earlier this year, the Foundation selected its largest-ever cohort of Cooke Transfer Scholars. All one hundred of these incredibly impressive students have begun their first semester at their four-year school and are already making us proud. We look forward to supporting them along their educational journey.

Every day, we see firsthand how resilient and adaptable community college transfer students are as they thrive at top institutions. For example, Ryan recently went viral with a Tik Tok chronicling his college journey. The son of immigrant and refugee parents, Ryan always wanted to pursue the education his parents never had the opportunity to. His family’s financial situation meant that he would need to start his higher education journey at Pasadena City College (PCC). He graduated as valedictorian and, with a Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, transferred to Yale University. He was one of just three community college students in the country to transfer to Yale that year. 

Ryan would go on to graduate from Yale and to also earn a master’s at Oxford University, before returning to Yale to get his law degree. The role his community college played in his journey was so important to him that he returned to PCC to have his law school graduation photos taken. He has since bought his parents their first home in the United States, and this spring, he was invited to be the commencement speaker at PCC. Ryan’s face is also proudly and prominently featured in ads for the college on bus stops around the city, celebrating how far he has come and encouraging other students to do the same. 

Another Cooke Transfer Scholar who has come a long way is Katya Echazarreta, who visited the edge of space this summer—becoming the first Mexican-born woman to ever do so. Katya was born in Guadalajara and moved to San Diego when she was seven. She started college at San Diego City College, and, with a Cooke Transfer Scholarship, completed her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at UCLA. She is currently working on her master’s degree in engineering at Johns Hopkins University. Katya has contributed to five NASA missions and has become a popular science communicator through her various social media channels as well as a YouTube show produced by Netflix. Earlier this year, she was selected to travel aboard the Blue Origin NS-21 as a Space for Humanity Ambassador. 

Ryan and Katya are just two of the many transfer students the Foundation has been proud to support and celebrate over the last two decades. We remain committed to ensuring high-achieving community college students receive the support they need to succeed no matter to what heights their college journey takes them.

Warm regards,

Seppy Basili 


News for High-Achieving Students

College and university enrollment has declined for the third straight year, according to a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Undergraduate enrollment is now about 7 percent lower than it was before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Undergraduate enrollment has fallen 1.1 percent since last fall, an improvement over last year’s 3.1 percent decline, but far from the rebound colleges and universities had hoped to see.

The Hechinger Report explored the reasons why so few Latino students are enrolling at state flagship universities. Hechinger found ten flagship institutions where the gap between the percentage of Latino freshmen and the percentage of Latino students who graduate from the state’s public high schools is ten percentage points or more. Bias in college admissions, high college costs, and a lack of outreach between flagship institutions and high schools all contribute to the challenge. 

The University of Maryland has pledged to significantly expand financial aid for in-state students who have significant financial need. The new $20 million annual program will cover any remaining tuition and fees for Maryland residents who receive federal Pell Grants. About 4,700 students stand to benefit from the program, which the university has described as the largest single-year investment in need-based scholarships in its history.

Cooke Foundation Highlights

The Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship application is now open and will close at midnight on January 12, 2023 in your local time zone. Recipients will receive up to $55,000 per year to pursue any field of study at a four-year school, as well as personalized advising, and the opportunity to apply for graduate school funding after completing a bachelor’s degree. Here are some ways you can spread the word with eligible students.

Need advice on how you, a family member, or friend can make the best college choice? This blog post has some important tips about building a balanced list of schools to research and apply to, as well as advice on things you can do while you wait to hear back from college admissions offices.

Cooke Transfer Scholar Angel Sanchez recently began the Second Chance fellowship with the U.S. Department of Justice, where he will focus on restoring access to education for people with prior involvement in the criminal justice system. Angel’s story stands out because he completed his GED and made the decision to pursue a higher education while he was incarcerated. He earned a reduced sentence and enrolled at Valencia Community College, applied for the Cooke Transfer Scholarship, and transferred to University of Central Florida in 2014 to study political science. After graduation, he became a Cooke Graduate Scholar and completed his J.D. at the University of Miami. This fall, he passed the Washington, DC Bar and in a serendipitous ceremony, was sworn in at the same courthouse where he received his conviction in 1999.

What We’re Reading

USA TodayElite colleges talk a lot about equity. Why are they still overlooking low-income students?

Hechinger ReportPROOF POINTS: Why elite colleges can’t give up legacy admissions

PewStateline: Lack of transportation hinders community college students

Inside Higher EdStudents who ‘stand to lose the most’