March 30, 2006

Foundation Gives C.U. Grant

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Given ever-increasing tuition rates and the threat of the Perkins loans’ elimination in 2007, the financial burden of attending a private college could be intimidating for many students.

But the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, which has provided at least three Cornell students with substantial scholarships for graduate and undergraduate work, recently awarded Cornell a grant to establish a partnership with community colleges. Cornell was one of eight institutions to receive this grant.

According to Joshua Wyner, vice-president for programs at the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the grant will allow Cornell to have “70 new low-to-moderate income community-college students over the next four years.” The grant is not financial aid for transfer students; it’s funding to establish a framework to help community-college students transfer.

“Cornell’s good innovative programs for working with students, willingness to accept more low-income community-college students than it has in the past, willingness to give equal financial aid to transfers as it does to freshmen and the fact Cornell will set an example for other Ivy League schools to emulate contributed to the awarding of the grant,” said Pete Mackey, the director of public affairs at the foundation.

1,100 new community-college students in the eight institutions selected for the grant will benefit from the program’s funding, according to Wyner. “Nobody else – no other private foundations – does this nationally,” he added.

Led by Doris Davis, associate provost for the administration and enrollment office, Cornell will use the grant money for the Pathway to Success Community College Partnership Program.

“The program will really work with a student from his first year in a two-year school,” said Tim Penix, director of the academic enrichment center at Morrisville State College in Morrisville, N.Y. “There will be a variety of workshops, advising, and orientation-type programs for community college students,” Penix added. “It’ll be a model for other schools.”

Cornell will partner with Morrisville State College and Rochester’s Monroe Community College in the Pathway to Success Program.

Due to Monroe’s urban location and Morrisville’s rural location, the Pathway to Success Program will serve a wide segment of the population, according to Penix.

“More than half of low-income students in higher education are in community college; more than half of underrepresented minorities are in community college,” Wyner said. “Universities that care about diversity on campus use this strategy [recruiting community-college students] to reach their goals.”

Cornell currently has a formal transfer of credit agreement in 15 academic programs with Morrisville State College, according to Tom Verdow, assistant director of admissions at Morrisville. The same is true for many other community colleges in New York State.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s plan to help fund a stronger relationship between four and two-year institutions grew out of the positive results from another program, the Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship Program. This scholarship provides partial funding for high-achieving community-college students to attend four-year universities of their choice.

“This program hit a chord in higher education – it’s clear that this pathway has not been open enough for students in the past,” Wyner said. “People that care about equity and excellence know that this is a critical approach for helping low-income students.”

Michele Burton ’08 is a recipient of this award. She attended a community college in Prince George’s County, Md. for three semesters before transfering to Cornell.

“The program is a good idea – Cornell students would benefit from meeting community-college students,” he said. “Community-college students have a challenging but sure-to-be rewarding course ahead of them.”

She describes what she has come to see as the differences between Cornell and a community college: “At community colleges, most students were older than me, and were practically minded in that they wanted an education for a specific purpose, while at Cornell students are academically focused, but unsure about what they’ll do … after they graduate.”

“My community-college was really diverse, with a lot of international students and a mix of non-traditional students,” which, to her, makes Cornell seem less diverse, especially since she hails from the county with the only majority black population in Maryland.

Victoria Pustynsky grad received a scholarship to attend the Johnson Graduate School of Management.

She received an e-mail from her undergraduate institution, Reed College, describing possible candidates for the scholarship which, Pustynsky said, were “from a lower-income family, planning for graduate study, active in the community and appreciated arts.”

Pustynsky was able to observe the diversity of the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship recipients at a scholar’s weekend in Washington, D.C.

“I was skeptical about the weekend at first, and thought it would be cheesy, but it turned out to be totally amazing and inspirational,” Pustynsky said. “I could relate with other people, we had similar historical family plights. There was everyone from Eastern European kids to kids from refugee camps, just people without the traditional Ivy League backgrounds.”

“Every one of our scholarships gets people with financial need to reach their full potential through education. We help in high school, two-year and four-year schools, and graduate school,” Wyner said.

Alan Ra ’09 also benefited from the foundation’s Young Scholar Program and now receives a scholarship to attend Cornell.

Archived article by Jessica DiNapoli
Sun Staff Writer