While primarily a scholarship provider, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation identifies and invests a portion of its funding in strategic grant initiatives to expand educational opportunities throughout the United States. By doing so, the Cooke Foundation seeks to use its resources to end the Excellence Gap, the disparity between the number of low and high income students who reach the top levels of academic performance.

This website, www.excellencegap.org, advances ongoing partnerships between the Foundation and educational leaders that share our commitment to advance the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need.


Closing the Excellence Gap

America counts 3.4 million high-ability, low-income students in grades K-12.

The Excellence Gap refers to the disparity in the number of these high ability lower-income students who reach advanced levels of academic performance — including college attendance and completion — compared to their higher-income peers.

This “gap” appears in elementary school and continues as students move through middle school, high school, college and beyond.

We know that America’s very smart, low-income kids increasingly fall to the margins as they progress through school, and far too many are discouraged from pursuing a college degree, especially at one of our select colleges and universities.

Despite scoring in the top quartile academically, students from the bottom economic quartile:

  • Experience far less academically enriched experiences in high school.
  • One in four (23%) do not take the SAT or ACT exam.
  • Half (56%) do not apply for federal financial aid through the FAFSA.
  • Less than half (49%) took at least one Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate course (compared with 71%).
  • Only a third (30%) participated in an academic honor society (versus 51%).
  • Most discouraging — nearly one fourth of all high-performing, low-income students never even apply to college.

Jack Kent Cooke Foundation At A Glance

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is dedicated to advancing the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need. The Cooke Foundation offers the largest scholarships in the country from middle school through graduate school, in-depth academic counseling and other direct services, seeking to help high-performing, low-income students develop their talents and excel educationally. The Cooke Foundation also provides significant grants for noteworthy and innovative initiatives that support high-performing, low-income students.  By doing so, the Cooke Foundation seeks to use its resources to end the disparity between low and higher income students in the number who reach the highest levels of academic performance, the so-called “excellence gap.”

The Cooke Foundation, founded in 2000 as a private independent foundation based in Northern Virginia, has awarded $130 million in scholarships to 1,900 students along with more than $80 million in grants to organizations that support its mission. Its endowment has grown to more than $700 million, making it one of the largest scholarship foundations in the country.