Founded in 1989, the Posse Foundation identifies public high school students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential who may be overlooked by traditional college selection processes. Posse extends to these students the opportunity to pursue personal and academic excellence by placing them in supportive, multicultural teams — Posses — of 10 students. Posse partner colleges and universities award Posse Scholars four-year, full-tuition leadership scholarships. A significant percentage of Posse Scholars are African Americans.
Two years ago, Syracuse University announced that is was continuing two of the three sections of Posse Foundation Scholars that it had been sponsoring. Syracuse University had been giving full scholarships to three Posses of 10 students each from the cities of Miami, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. The university decided to only support the Miami Posse but it later extended support of the Atlanta Posse for one additional year. At the time, the university stated that it had built strong recruiting operations in Los Angeles and Atlanta which negated the need for Posses from those cities.
But new data released by the university shows that there has been a significant drop in students of color from underrepresented groups. In 2015, students of color made up 28 percent of the entering class compared to 24 percent this year. The decision to eliminate two Posses was probably a contributing factor to the decline. But the university notes that it admitted 41 percent of applicants from underrepresented groups this year, a higher percentage than a year ago. But student yield for this group declined.
Syracuse University has now launched new initiatives aimed at increasing the diversity of its student body. Four admissions officers will focus exclusively on diversity recruitment. Merit based aid programs will be used as incentives to attract high-performing students from underrepresented groups and the university will launch a fundraising campaign to provide greater financial aid for students of color.
Kent Syverud, chancellor of Syracuse University, stated that “this University has long been known for a deep commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. It is critically important. Those qualities are a core, a foundation, to the Syracuse University mission.”
Ryan Williams, associate vice president for enrollment management at the university, added that “improving access and affordability for all students, but especially those from underrepresented and marginalized populations, is my chief priority.”