Jack Kent Cooke Foundation: Grants for Higher Education

OVERVIEW: The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (JKCF) typically provides more than $2 million in college access and excellence funding a year. Most of its work focused on college advising and other efforts designed to improve college access among students with high potential but low incomes.

IP TAKE: JKCF's awards are few, and unsolicited proposals are very rarely funded. But if you're committed to increasing the number of underserved students who earn a post-secondary degree, introduce yourself to this funder.

PROFILE: The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation believes far too many low-income students fall short of their educational potential through lack of challenge in school and the high cost of a college education. Headquartered in Landsdowne, Virginia, JKCF works at “providing students both counseling and financial support from middle school to graduate school” through “significant grants for noteworthy and innovative initiatives that support high-performing, low-income students.”

JKCF supports this mission through a combination of scholarship programs and grantmaking activities. Jack Kent Cooke Scholarships support high-achieving, low-income students in high school, college, and graduate school. Cooke Scholars receive both funding for their education as well as guidance from advisers and mentorship from professionals and civic leaders.

Two scholarship programs in particular are aimed at undergraduate students: the College Scholarship Program for students entering college directly from high school, and the Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship for those who are moving into a four-year institution from a community college.

In the area of grantmaking, JKCF partners with institutions of higher education and other education providers. This funder often awards millions of dollars a year in college access and excellence, artistic development, and academic achievement grants, though there is not a specific grantmaking program aimed at college readiness.

Another JKCF initiative aims to increase college retention and bachelor's degree completion by helping community college students successfully transition into leading colleges and universities. To that end, the foundation has invested millions as well into its Community College Transfer Initiative, working with "partners that are committed to developing and supporting programs to improve access for high-achieving, low-income community college transfer students."

Getting college students themselves involved in the process of prepping the next generation, the foundation is also a supporter of the National College Advising Corps, which "recruits and trains recent college graduates to serve as advisers in high schools nationwide," with the goal of encouraging high-performing, low-income students to apply to more prestigious universities.

In addition to the projects the foundation funds nationwide, it also has a grant program called Good Neighbor, which is focused specifically on funding non-profit groups that work with young people to reach their full academic potential in the foundation's home region (namely, the northern Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., areas).

Grant amounts for the Good Neighbor program range from $10,000 to $35,000 for a one-year period. JKCF is especially interested in “after-school academic and summer enrichment opportunities, college access advising programs, arts, service learning, and STEM programs, innovative approaches that bridge education and technology, and internship programs.” There is an open application period for this program, with additional details on the grant’s description page, and the foundation also lists past award recipients for your review.

Obtaining funding from JKCF is not easy. Outside of the Good Neighbor program, it awards only a limited number of awards to nonprofits whose efforts are aligned with its mission of advancing the educational opportunities of low-income students. The foundation also states that it “rarely, if ever, fund[s] unsolicited proposals.” 

 The foundation is open to expanding its contacts, however. So if your organization's work is consistent with this funder's goals, you can sign up "to receive Foundation news updates and information about future opportunities” by sending your organization’s contact information to grants@jkcf.org.


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