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Schooling Students Across the Country: The Posse Foundation Expands Their Reach

The Posse Foundation is one of America's most successful college access organizations. They identify high-potential students from disadvantaged backgrounds and help them not only get into college, but be successful once they're there. After being one of only ten groups to receive part of President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize funds last year, Posse is growing, with a major new university partner and plans to expand into an additional city.

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By Megan Driscoll

jason florez posse foundation alumnus

Jason Florez (left), Posse alumnus, at the 2011 gala. Photo by Sheila Griffin.

The Power of a Posse

There are many groups devoted to increasing college access for disadvantaged and underrepresented groups. However, most focus on the first step: Getting students into school. According to Posse president and founder Dr. Deborah Bial, her organization was founded in response to another problem: Keeping students in school.

In 1989, Dr. Bial spoke to a talented student from New York City who had dropped out of an Ivy League university. When she asked him why, he replied that 'if he had his posse with him, he would have stayed and ultimately graduated.' This inspired the simple idea behind the Posse Foundation - if you send kids to college with a posse, or team of students, they will have the support network they need to succeed academically and socially. When you add this to the training and follow-up provided by the organization, you get their incredible success: More than 90% of Posse Foundation students graduate within six years, well above the national average of about 57%.

Since The Education Insider last spoke to Dr. Bial, the Foundation has been growing. Last fall, Syracuse University signed on to be Posse's latest institutional partner. The Foundation relies on 39 partner colleges and universities across the country to keep the program running. These schools provide at least ten full-tuition, 4-year merit scholarships each academic year, as well as a campus mentor who supports the Posse Scholars and facilitates their group meetings for the first two years they're in school. These institutions are instrumental in providing the financial and logistical resources required for the Foundation to fulfill its promises to students.

Syracuse will be recruiting Posse Scholars from Posse Foundation chapters in Los Angeles, Atlanta and Miami. At the same time, Middlebury College, one of the institutions that has recruited students from the New York chapter since the 1990s, just expanded their reach to the Chicago chapter.

And it's not just Posse's available school list that is growing. Right now they have chapters in seven cities: New York, Washington, D.C., Boston, Chicago, Miami, Atlanta and Los Angeles. Soon the Foundation will be opening their eighth chapter in New Orleans, from which long-time partner institutions Tulane University and Bard College will be recruiting. Posse raised $2 million at their recent annual gala, $500,000 of which will go toward the launch, and are currently hiring staff in anticipation of the official New Orleans launch.

All this growth comes on the heels of a great year for Posse. In winter 2010, 517 new Posse Scholars won over $72 million in scholarships from their partner institutions. These students are completing their pre-collegiate training and will head off to school in the fall to join the over 3,600 students who have entered the path to success through the Posse Foundation.

Don't miss The Education Insider's interview with Posse Foundation president Dr. Deborah Bial.

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