Lehigh Partners with Posse Foundation to Help Underserved Students in Accessing the University

Lehigh University is partnering with The Posse Foundation in the Bay Area of California to expand educational opportunities for inner-city high school students with academic and leadership potential who might not otherwise have considered applying to the university.

Lehigh will offer full scholarships to a “posse” of 10 public high school students as part of its ongoing commitment to create a more diverse campus environment, promote equity in higher education and broaden its work on inclusion. Student selections are expected to be made by mid-December, with the first cohort of students starting at Lehigh in the fall of 2018. In four years, 40 Posse scholars will continually be part of the Lehigh community.

“We are thrilled to partner with the Posse Foundation in their noble work of extending the opportunity of high quality education to promising young people in the Bay Area who might not otherwise have that opportunity,” said Lehigh President John D. Simon. “This commitment aligns with our continuing efforts to open Lehigh to students of all backgrounds and to create a more culturally diverse, inclusive and welcoming campus. Our community—and our society—can only benefit from expanding opportunity.”

In December, Lehigh joined 29 other colleges and universities in the American Talent Initiative, a new program that aims to increase the number of talented lower- and moderate-income students attending institutions with the highest graduation rates in the United States. Earlier, Lehigh announced a new financial aid initiative in which the university meets 100 percent of every student’s demonstrated financial need. Through that commitment, Lehigh leverages a combination of scholarships, grants, work study and loans to fill the gap between the cost of attending Lehigh and the calculated expected family contribution.

In this newest initiative, Lehigh joins 56 other top colleges and universities across the country in partnering with the Posse Foundation, a nationwide college access and youth leadership development program. Lehigh is one of only three institutions to provide the opportunity to Bay Area students.

The initiative comes as Lehigh establishes an important presence on the West Coast, with the aim of creating new opportunities for current and prospective students and greater connections with industry.

As part of the partnership, Posse will work with Lehigh in identifying students who have high academic and leadership potential and an interest in diversity and team work. The multi-step selection process begins with high schools and community-based organizations nominating students for the program. Often, those selected would be first-generation college students, and they come from under-resourced high schools that might lack college career counseling.

“We want to provide access and opportunity to those students who may not, without the Posse program, know that Lehigh is a potential fit for them and some place where they could thrive and be a high contributor,” said Morgan Volkart ’06 ‘10G, associate vice provost, Western Regional and International Recruitment, at Lehigh. “So it really does change the life trajectory of these students and their families, given some of the backgrounds that they’re coming from.”

To help the students excel, the Posse program places the students in supportive, multi-cultural teams—or posses—of 10 students who attend college together. Prior to arriving at Lehigh, the students will receive months of academic preparation and weekly trainings in team building, cross-cultural communication and leadership. Posse staff will visit Lehigh four times a year to meet with the scholars and campus liaisons and mentors. Also, once on campus, scholars will attend an annual retreat with the greater Lehigh student population at which students will be able to discuss important campus issues around race, sexuality, socio-economic status and other matters.

“As an institution, Lehigh’s priority is to diversify its student body in many different ways, geographically as well as socio-economically, racially and so on,” Volkart said. “Posse scholars can become a catalyst for developing Lehigh into a place that’s more welcoming.”

The Posse Foundation was founded in 1989 and currently has 10 chapters, including in the Bay Area, Boston, Miami and Washington, D.C. Since its founding, Posse partner colleges and universities have awarded $931 million in leadership scholarships. Among the partner colleges and universities are Boston University, The George Washington University, Texas A&M University and Vassar College.

“We are thrilled to partner with Lehigh University,” said Posse President and Founder Deborah Bial. “John Simon is a tremendous advocate for equity and diversity and we look forward to working with him and with the institution. We know Posse Scholars will love Lehigh.”


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