Spotlight on Expanding College Access Features Former JKCF Grantee in NYT

In the wake of the White House summit on college opportunity, increasing numbers of articles have appeared about the plans of colleges, universities, and nonprofit organizations to do more to give low-income students access to and the tools necessary to succeed at top institutions of higher education. Here at the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, which has since inception been dedicated to college access and college success for high-achieving students with financial need, we are thrilled that expanding educational opportunities for low-income students has the nation’s attention and that so many institutions are now committing to do more in this area.

It was refreshing to read in The New York Times an article profiling good work that has already been done. The article focuses on such efforts by Franklin & Marshall College, a 2,400-student liberal arts college in rural Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in the last half dozen years. This was a particularly happy read for us because Franklin & Marshall College is a former grantee of ours.


As the author, Peg Tyre, writes, in 2008 Franklin & Marshall’s incoming freshman class, “was 5 percent Pell eligible (Pell grants are mostly awarded to students who come from families that make $30,000 or less) while 62.3 percent of the freshmen came from families who could pay the full freight — usually considered those with a family income of more than $175,000.”

Thanks to initiatives that began around that time, those numbers have changed.  For the last three years, “17 percent of the incoming freshman class has consisted of low-income students, more than some of the most highly competitive colleges with endowments three or four times the size of Franklin & Marshall’s. The low-income students at Franklin & Marshall are doing well, too. They have roughly the same G.P.A. and retention rate as their more affluent peers.”

Tyre describes some of the successful initiatives undertaken by Franklin & Marshall. The college has worked to connect recruiters with high-performing charter networks and community-based organizations across the country. It offers a free three-week summer program for rising high school seniors from low-income families. It expanded its on-campus academic support and provides on-site advisers to help students negotiate academic and social challenges. It also coordinates weekly meetings between groups of low-income students and first-generation college-goers and a professor and pairs those students with a mentor, an upperclassman who is paid to meet with them once a week to, “show them the ropes and allay their concerns.”

One other initiative that Tyre highlights is the college’s effort to recruit low-income students from often overlooked rural high schools. To do so, the college began placing four Franklin & Marshall alumni (along with alumni from other area colleges) annually in the College Advising Corps, which trains recent college graduates and sends them into high schools as full-time advisers to help with college counseling.

From 2007 to 2011 Franklin & Marshall College was the recipient of a little over $1 million from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation through one of our initial College Advising Corps grants. We are a long-time funder of the National College Advising Corps, having incubated the now nationally recognized organization beginning in 2005 and since then invested more than $13 million in the program. Through our college access grant to Franklin & Marshall, we supported the development and continued expansion of the Keystone Region College Advising Corps, a college access network in partnership with three other public and private institutions—Dickinson College, Gettysburg College, and Millersville University.

Serving thousands of students in high schools across Pennsylvania with one-on-one college advising from recent college graduates recruited and trained by Keystone Region College Advising Corps, Franklin & Marshall and its partners work to increase college enrollment and graduation among deserving, low-income students.

The profile can be read in full on The New York Times website:

Peg Tyre, February 5, 2014:  Improving Economic Diversity at the Better Colleges