Lori King-Nelson and her family have struggled financially since she began attending classes as a non-traditional student at Tarrant County College’s South Campus in Texas. But as a recipient of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s 2014 Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, she can stop worrying for a bit.
“To know that things are going to be okay over the next few years while I finish my degree is pretty overwhelming,” King-Nelson said.
Seventy-one Phi Theta Kappa members are among the 85 two-year college students named 2014 Jack Kent Cooke Scholars by the nation’s largest private scholarship program. Historically, a vast majority of Jack Kent Cooke Scholars are also Society members.
The investment the Foundation is making in these Phi Theta Kappa members has the potential to reach nearly $10 million. Each student will receive a scholarship worth up to $30,000 a year for up to three years – up to $90,000 total – to complete his or her undergraduate degree.
In addition, the Foundation offers up to $50,000 each to scholars upon the completion of their baccalaureate degree if they meet renewal criteria and continue enrollment for a master’s degree.
“I always wanted to go as high as I could go in my education; but until recently, that wasn’t a reality,” said Dennis Murphy, a 2014 Jack Kent Cooke Scholar from Middlesex Community College in Massachusetts and a Phi Theta Kappa chapter officer. “This award gives me the opportunity to achieve the education I want and achieve my dreams. It’s opening doors.”
Phi Theta Kappa Executive Director and CEO Dr. Rod Risley said the investment being made in Society members and in two-year college students across the country by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is vital if students are to complete college and realize their full potential. It’s an example he would like to see more organizations follow.
According to the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, only about 12 percent of two-year college students who express interest in earning a bachelor’s degree actually reach that goal. Many students are deterred by the high price of four-year colleges, the limited options for transfer students and a lack of knowledge about the possible academic pathways, the foundation has found.
“This is why partnerships providing varied sources of stackable scholarships matter,” Risley said. “The 2014 Jack Kent Cooke Scholars are eligible to receive up to $140,000 each, if they take full advantage of the offerings available through the program. But some of these students may still find themselves in debt.
“While we are extremely grateful for the commitment that the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has made to our two-year college students, more foundations and organizations must invest in our nation’s students. It’s not only an investment that will benefit the students; it’s an investment that will benefit us all.”
The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship is the largest private scholarship for two-year and community college transfer students in the country. Scholars are selected based on high academic ability and achievements, persistence, leadership and financial need. The average GPA of the 2014 Scholars is 3.98, and they come from families with an average adjusted gross income of approximately $25,000.
This year’s recipients represent the largest group in the program’s 13-year history, with 85 finalists selected from 3,705 applications representing 737 two-year colleges from 48 states, two U.S. territories and the District of Columbia.
“The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has long been committed to helping outstanding community college students transfer to and succeed at the nation’s top colleges and universities,” said Emily Froimson, Vice President of Programs at the Foundation. “Since the program started in 2002, the Foundation has supported 643 community college students directly, and thousands more through the Foundation’s grant-making initiatives.”
Past Undergraduate Transfer Scholars have attended such prestigious colleges as Amherst College, Columbia University, Cornell University, Georgetown University, Stanford University, Wellesley College and Yale University. Among the 2013 Scholars, 62 percent were first-generation college students.
Although Phi Theta Kappa members often make up a large percentage of the recipients each year, Society membership is not required for this award. Phi Theta Kappa Foundation CEO Dr. Nancy Rieves said that while the program is rigorous and highly competitive, Phi Theta Kappa members seem to have a competitive edge over other applicants because of the Society’s emphasis for its members to develop as leaders, achieve academic success and engage thoughtfully in their communities.
“Students who engage in Phi Theta Kappa programs gain immeasurably from the experience and are recognized for their achievements by prestigious scholarship providers like the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation,” Risley said. “Consistently, the majority of scholarship recipients are engaged Phi Theta Kappa members.
“We value the strong working relationship that Phi Theta Kappa has for many years shared with the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation in providing our members access to selective senior colleges.”
The application cycle for the 2015 Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship Program will be open from late September to early December 2014. Rising sophomores and those who have graduated from two-year colleges within the last five years but who have not yet enrolled at a four-year college are encouraged to apply for this scholarship.
Learn more about the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.