Winter 2022 Newsletter

Last month, Yale University announced it will soon meet 100 percent of demonstrated need for Eli Whitney students, a cohort of nontraditional undergraduate learners who take time off before enrolling at the institution. Starting next academic year, financial aid packages for these students will now cover the full cost of attendance, including tuition, fees, housing, meals, and other expenses like travel and books.  

The adjustment is among several other new steps the university is taking in order to better support learners, including expanding financial aid programs generally and subsidizing childcare. Beginning next academic year, Yale will also eliminate the student income contribution portion of the financial aid process, leveling the playing field for all students receiving financial aid and reducing student effort in paying for college. The changes came after the university announced its endowment had swelled to $42.3 billion last year and faculty and students quickly called on the university to invest some of those funds in easing the financial burdens of students. 

Similar scenarios are playing out across the country as other institutions have also recently seen their endowments skyrocket. Washington University in St. Louis announced it would dedicate $1 billion to financial aid after its endowment saw a 65 percent increase. Amherst College announced updates to its admissions policies for fall 2022 including expanding its financial aid budget by $4 million and eliminating legacy admissions.  While many institutions have struggled immensely during the pandemic, higher education endowments on the whole grew a median of 27 percent in 2021, meaning the wealthiest of institutions got wealthier. It only makes sense that they would direct those funds toward better supporting students. I expect many other institutions will follow suit. 

At the Cooke Foundation, we are also able to provide more support for our Scholars. We have already announced that the Foundation has increased its undergraduate award cap from $40,000 to $55,000, annually, and we have doubled the Cooke Graduate Scholarship amount to $150,000.  

We also understand the importance of supporting learning outside the classroom in ways that not only help students gain specific skills, but provide the social capital necessary for starting and growing a career. As such, Cooke College Scholars and Cooke Transfer Scholars can apply for a stipend of up to $6,000 to pursue an unpaid summer internship at a non-profit or government organization. We have increased the value of the stipend over the last few years to meet the rising cost of living for our Scholars. 

In addition, we have expanded our Family Campus Visit program, allowing our Scholars’ families to affordably visit them on campus. The program covers the cost of airfare or ground transportation, meals, and other travel expenses. It’s important Scholars feel they have their loved ones in their corner as they navigate their college journey. This program enables families to do so in person. 

These are just a few ways we are using our endowment to better support Scholars. Over the past two decades, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has awarded more than $230 million in scholarships to nearly 3,000 high-achieving students with financial need. But we know that covering only the cost of college is not enough. We will continue to find new ways to ensure our Scholars receive resources commensurate to both their needs and their ambition, and hope that other institutions and organizations continue to invest in their students as their endowments grow as well.

Warm regards, 

Seppy Basili 


Cooke Foundation Highlights  

The Foundation is excited to launch Compass, a video library full of Cooke Scholar knowledge touching on topics like navigating the college and graduate school search, personal growth, and finding a fulfilling career path. Explore and be inspired! 

Undergraduate Transfer Scholar Ousmane Kabre was recently named Madison Area Technical College’s 2021 Distinguished Alumni of the Year. During his time at Madison College, he served as the Student Senate President, a Wisconsin Technical College State Ambassador, and received the Karen Roberts Student Life Leadership Award. Ousmane is also recognized for founding and serving as the CEO of Leading Change – an organization transforming young Africans into leaders and agents of change. His plan is to bring 24 Leading Change Scholars to Wisconsin from Africa to begin their education at Madison College. In addition, Leading Change has opened an educational center in Africa to help support even more aspiring students.  

The Foundation recently put forth Our Cooke Community Commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism. We commit to actively building a community where people of all races, genders, ages, sexual orientations, religions, abilities, socioeconomic statuses, nationalities, family compositions, citizenship statuses, and other characteristics feel safe, seen, and celebrated. 


News for High-Achieving Students  

new survey by Education Week’s research center, which is incidentally supported in part by a grant from the Cooke Foundation, examined the pandemic’s effects on high-achieving students in the 2021 graduating class. Of the nearly 1,500 students surveyed, a majority reported experiencing heightened stress and financial hardships. More than 1 in 5 students from low-income backgrounds said they changed their college or job plans to care for family members at high risk for COVID and 22% reported that any income from their job goes toward supporting their family. As the pandemic continues to affect high schoolers, these findings suggest that K-12 schools, colleges, and supporting organizations not only must double down on their support for students headed to college, but also seek out students whose college plans have been disrupted to ensure they have the opportunity to attend and graduate.  

The Washington Post spotlights a new program in San Antonio, Texas that enables high-achieving high school students to attend local community colleges for free. “Promise” programs like the Alamo Promise are on the rise — the University of Pennsylvania estimates there are 400 similar programs nationally. In addition to free tuition, Alamo Promise students receive access to low-cost health care, on-campus food pantries, and daycare programs that costs parent students as little as $10 a week. Additionally, students are supported by an emergency financial aid program that helps students pay for life costs like car repairs, rent or medical needs, which research shows can derail students’ academic progress. While the participating colleges in San Antonio have experienced enrollment declines during COVID, like most schools nationally, enrollment from the 25 high schools participating in  Alamo Promise has increased 17 percent. Throughout the pandemic, advocates have pointed to Promise programs as critical to ensuring that students from nontraditional and low-income backgrounds can continue their education.  

University Business recently covered Bentley University’s announcement of its new BentleyFirst program, providing college access for first-gen, high-achieving students by offering scholarships that offset the costs of private education through donor assistance. The Massachusetts-based private institution has reimagined their admissions process and simplified financial aid to encourage first-gen students to enroll at tuition rates comparable to public institutions. The University is part of the First-gen Forward national group of institutions known for their excellence in meeting the needs of first-gen students and eliminating complexities, while also attracting donors who were themselves first-generation students from working families. 


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