UNC has been chosen to receive the Cooke Prize for Equity in Educational Access and will receive $1 million from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.
The University was selected over Stanford, Brown and Berkeley for this year’s award, which was presented to Chancellor Carol Folt by the foundation’s Executive Director Harold O. Levy. The foundation provides scholarships and grants to further the education of low-income students.
“I’m delighted to announce today that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been selected as this year’s recipient,” he said. “Chapel Hill is doing an outstanding job of admitting and graduating high-achieving, low-income students.”
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Admissions Steve Farmer said he and the University are dedicated to accessible education for low-income students and said UNC plans to show it.
“The University of North Carolina pledges to raise $1 million in private funding to match the Cooke Prize,” he said. “We pledge to use the combined money to extend our recruitment into low-income areas and help prospective students thrive at Carolina and later in life.”
Levy said the programs help students pay for college and navigate the challenges that come with it.
“This University awards 93 percent financial aid based on need,” he said. “Very few colleges do that.”
Levy said his foundation works to help low-income students achieve academic success, and that their motivation and desire to obtain an education is the real reason the program is so successful.
“Once we find these students, 97 percent of them not only finish a four-year degree but go on to obtain a graduate degree,” Levy said. “And we stick with them.”
Levy said the University received the award because the work it does focuses on helping students throughout their entire education, not just at the admissions office. UNC’s outreach starts as early as middle school, and Levy said that program should be an example for other colleges around the world.
Chancellor Folt said UNC’s College Advising Corps have been providing college counseling and information to students in low-income areas throughout North Carolina during their primary education, which she says has caused more of them to apply and be accepted to colleges and universities.
“The Carolina Advising Corps serves 23 percent of low-income students in the state through advising. They identify and help them apply to colleges,” Levy said. “That’s truly extraordinary.”
Folt said UNC leads the nation in meeting the financial needs of low-income and first-generation students, with almost half of its students graduating debt-free.
“Only 40 percent of the seniors in the class of 2015 accumulated any debt at all,” Folt said. “That’s compared to well over 70 percent as the national average."
Levy said UNC stood out as an organization that truly invested not only in public education for the betterment of the public but in people and their families.
“Everyone wants a chance," Folt said. "Every kid out there wants a chance, and they just need somebody to say, ‘We want to give you that chance.’ It’s that commitment to opportunity that we’re celebrating today.”
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