Rice is a finalist for $1 million Cooke Prize

Rice University is one of five universities that are finalists for the $1 million Cooke Prize for Equity in Educational Excellence.

The prize is the largest award in the U.S. that recognizes a college making strides in enrolling low-income students and supporting them to successful graduation.

Jack Kent Cooke Foundation logo and bustThe Jack Kent Cooke Foundation announced the finalists April 25 and will select the winner in May. The foundation is dedicated to advancing the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need.

A study last year by the Cooke Foundation found that only 3 percent of students at top colleges across the country come from the poorest 25 percent of families, while 72 percent come from the wealthiest 25 percent of families.

“The Cooke Prize competition focuses attention on colleges and universities that are leaders in opening their doors wider to outstanding low-income students,” said Cooke Foundation Executive Director Harold O. Levy. “We want other schools to learn from the successful strategies of our finalists so they can also admit and graduate more students based on academic merit rather than family income. This is vital to creating the educated workforce America requires and to provide equal college access by leveraging resources to recruit, support and successfully graduate low-income students.”

In its announcement of the finalists, the foundation noted that Rice meets 100 percent of students’ demonstrated financial need and that students with family incomes below $80,000 are not required to take out loans. In the past three years, 15 to 16 percent of all Rice students from the U.S. have received federal Pell Grants.

“The university takes into account hardships that low-income students have faced when considering admission,” the foundation reported. “Rice also provides low-income students with the following: comprehensive academic and social support services from the time they are admitted until they graduate; summer research positions with Rice faculty; stipends for unpaid or low-paying summer internships; a six-week summer bridge program and continuing mentoring for those in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields; health insurance coverage for those who need it; assistance for students facing food insecurity; and other programs tailored to their needs. In addition, Rice operates programs in Houston to help prepare young low-income students for college.”

In addition to Rice, the finalists include Brown University; Stanford University; the University of California, Berkeley; and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“The finalists demonstrated thoughtful strategies as exhibited by the depth and breadth of programs on their campuses to ensure equity of experience for low-income students from admission through graduation,” the foundation wrote.

Rice was also a finalist for the prize last year.


About B.J. Almond

B.J. Almond is senior director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.