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Apr 09, 2015 12:44 PM EDT

Vassar College Awarded $1 Million for Enrollment of Students from Low-Income Families

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Vassar College has been awarded $1 million to recognize their efforts in recruiting and enrolling students from lower-income families.

According to the Huffington Post, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (JKCF) issued its first ever Cooke Prize for Equity in Educational Excellence. Both Vassar and the nonprofit organization made the announcement Tuesday.

"This is an extraordinary prize and vote of confidence for Vassar's commitment to affordability and accessibility for all qualified students," Catherine Hill, Vassar's president, said in a press release. "Equally important is the larger statement the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation makes with this new prize, about the need to ensure equal opportunity in U.S. higher education."

While Vassar is seen primarily as a highly regarded private school, it has also garnered a reputation for inclusiveness. Last Sept., the New York Times placed Vassar at the top of their "Most Economically Diverse Top Colleges" list.

"It's great to see colleges be rewarded for doing the right thing, because too often they're rewarded for doing the wrong thing," Steve Burd, senior policy analyst for the Education Policy Program of New America, told the HP. "Rankings generally celebrate schools for getting more and more exclusive."

JKCF Executive Director Harold O. Levy told the HP there is "no single measure of criteria" for the award. Vassar was chosen after an extensive review process left them as the clear favorites.

"We need to find solutions to the issue of a lack of socioeconomic diversity on our competitive college campuses, and to stop wasting the talent and potential of high-ability students who could be making great contributions to this country if only they were afforded the opportunities of their wealthier peers," Levy said in the release. "We hope this prize will encourage other institutions to follow Vassar's strong leadership in creating college access and success initiatives."

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