Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Joins Amherst and Mount Holyoke Colleges to Increase Access to Four-year Colleges for Community College Students

For Immediate Release
March 7, 2006

Media Contact: Dr. Pete Mackey, Director of Public Affairs
(703) 723-8000, ext. 215
Local Contact: Kevin McCaffrey, MHC 413-538-2987

AMHERST and SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. -- Amherst and Mount Holyoke Colleges have joined with the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and six other renowned colleges and universities to announce an investment of $27 million to markedly increase the opportunities for high-achieving, low-income community college students to earn bachelor's degrees from selective four-year institutions. It is the largest shared investment to date by leading colleges and universities to overcome the lack of opportunities low-income students have at such schools.

Through the investment, the Foundation, three public universities, and five private colleges and universities will build model programs that enable academically qualified low- to moderate-income community college students to transfer to selective schools in unprecedented numbers.

The other six colleges and universities are Bucknell University, Cornell University, the University of California-Berkeley, the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Southern California.

"Our country has a treasure of untapped talent at our community colleges, including many outstanding students from low-income backgrounds," said Dr. Matthew J. Quinn, the Foundation's Executive Director. "This initiative will help selective colleges and universities achieve their goals of access and excellence and enable these students to graduate from the highest-ranking institutions. We will all benefit if every qualified student with financial need has such opportunities."

Amherst's and Mount Holyoke's programs

Mount Holyoke College will use the $779,000 grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation to expand its already robust commitment to enrolling high-achieving, low- and moderate-income students and transfers from community colleges, and to strengthen its partnership with Holyoke Community College. HCC is set to receive more than $300,000 from the grant to provide academic counseling, mentoring, and "learning community" courses for promising area students to prepare them to transfer to selective four-year colleges after graduation. In addition, Mount Holyoke will be making an institutional contribution approaching $2 million towards the initiative, primarily for financial aid.

Beginning in the fall of 2006, the College will implement the Community College Transfer Initiative at Mount Holyoke College. This program will increase enrollment of low- and moderate-income transfer students from community colleges at Mount Holyoke by 10 students per year--for an additional 40 through the four years of the grant--through enhanced outreach efforts at HCC and other community colleges.

Other aspects of the program include: creation of a new five-week quantitative reasoning course, Math Transition, for 15 HCC students each semester to prepare them to transfer to a selective four-year college; a peer-mentoring program; and a new outreach effort to women veterans of the Gulf War and the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan who wish to continue their educations.

"This generous grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation goes directly to addressing the biggest challenge that we face in higher education today: access to top-quality education for low-income students," said Mount Holyoke College President Joanne V. Creighton. "Mount Holyoke has been a leader in providing such access. We look forward to working with the Foundation, with Amherst, and with other colleges and community colleges to continue to open doors to talented students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to attend a leading institution."

According to Jane Brown, Vice President for Enrollment and College Relations, "Our community college transfer students meet the high academic standards we set for Mount Holyoke women and make a significant contribution to our rigorous intellectual community."

Of the nation's 30 top liberal arts colleges, Mount Holyoke has the second highest percentage--over 20 percent--of students receiving Pell Grants, a federal fund designated for low-income students. Ten percent--approximately 50 students--of Mount Holyoke's graduating students every year have been community college students. On average, there are 200 community college transfer students at Mount Holyoke, representing 10 percent of the student population; the majority of these transfer students are enrolled in the Frances Perkins program for students of nontraditional age.

Amherst College will use its grant of $585,142 from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation to support its ongoing efforts to find and enroll the best college students in the world--wherever they come from, whatever their educational background.

Amherst provides access to the highest quality education to all deserving students, regardless of ability to pay. Amherst hopes to enroll as many as 10 new transfers from Massachusetts community colleges each fall for 4 years; in the fall of 2006, the college will begin a recruiting program for admission in 2007. Amherst will appoint a new admissions fellow to work exclusively with transfers from community colleges, and hire two current Amherst students who transferred from community colleges to work as "telementors" for prospective students in the admissions process. Additional staff will be hired at Amherst to ease the social and academic transition to a residential four-year liberal arts college.

"Our need-blind admission policy has always meant that highly motivated, highly qualified students could come to Amherst, even if they didn't think they could afford it," says Tom Parker, dean of admission at Amherst. "We're finding new ways to reach out to the largest number of qualified students: we now can draw from a really amazing group of high achievers at the community colleges who are ready for Amherst." Amherst's president, Anthony W. Marx, adds, "America can't afford to lose any qualified aspirants to a liberal arts education because they think community college is all they can afford. We're grateful to the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation for helping Amherst to find these stars at the community colleges--and we hope that other selective private colleges will see, at Amherst, what a rich untapped resource they are."

The Amherst College financial aid program is regularly cited in U.S. News & World Report, Kiplinger's, Money magazine and other media as one of the country's best. Amherst meets the full demonstrated need of every admitted student. Last year, Amherst provided more than $20 million in scholarship aid to about half of the student body. The average scholarship package was $26,326. Low-income students graduate from Amherst with no debt. About a quarter of the students who receive grants graduate with no student loans to repay. Middle-income students graduate from Amherst with significantly less debt than students from virtually all comparable colleges and universities.

More about the grants in general

The partnership with the Foundation responds to several trends impacting higher education's efforts to provide opportunities for outstanding students, regardless of socioeconomic status, to earn a four-year degree:

  • Reaching out to populations currently underrepresented in selective colleges.

  • Enrolling a combined 1,100 additional low- to middle-income community college transfers over the next four years, beginning in fall 2007.

  • Developing transfer programs for high-achieving, low- to moderate-income community college students that serve as models for other selective institutions to replicate.

  • Participating in a five-year study funded by the Foundation that evaluates the effectiveness of the programs and provides information and ideas to be shared nationally.

  • Building strong collaborations with their partner community colleges.

  • Committing to sustaining the program after the grant period.

In June 2006, the Foundation will host a national conference focused on strategies to increase the number of low-income community college students that transfer to selective four-year schools. An opinion piece related to these initiatives is attached, as are brief stories of several community college transfer students who exemplify the type of students this program will help. For more information visit www.jackkentcookefoundation.org