Vassar Awarded Cooke Prize for Supporting Low-Income Students

Unrestricted funds the largest ever accolade of its kind

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation announced an inaugural $1 million award to Vassar College for its success in attracting and graduating low-income students. The Cooke Prize for Equity in Educational Excellence is the largest award in the nation recognizing a college making strides in enrolling low-income students and supporting them to successful graduation.

The no-strings-attached award recognizes an institution’s accomplishments in enrollment, financial aid, academics and student support services.

According to Vassar president Catharine Hill, the college will apply the Cooke Prize to programs for lower-income students, “first generation” students (the first in their family to attend college) and undocumented students, so-called “Dreamers.” This will include increased support to the college’s “Transitions” pre-orientation program for first-year students, as well as greater support for summer internships so that students from all socioeconomic backgrounds can benefit from these valuable experiences.

Since taking the helm in 2006, Hill has led Vassar’s transformation into a far more socioeconomically diverse college campus, prioritizing a commitment of funds to its strictly need-based financial aid budget.

Hill, a higher-education economist, added, “Currently in the U.S. the likelihood of earning a bachelor’s degree depends to a large extent on a person’s family income and race. This must change for our country to live up to its principles of social advancement for all. Selective colleges and universities with large endowments must do their part by committing significantly more resources to need-based financial aid. Government incentives to do so would help, but we don’t need to wait for government policy changes.”

More information about the Cooke Prize for Equity in Educational Excellence can be found at

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