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Posse Foundation Looks to Get More Veterans into Elite Institutions

While the post-9/11 GI Bill fostered the creation of the Yellow Ribbon Program, which helps veterans afford private colleges whose costs are not fully covered by standard grants, many veterans continue to enroll at less-selective institutions like for-profit universities and community colleges.

Despite having programs in place to help serve those who served, elite institutions like Vasser College experience great difficult in enrolling veterans. However, a recently established group called the Posse Foundation is looking to change that.

The group has traditionally placed small groups—posses—of students from urban areas together on selective campuses where they might not succeed individually, and sees serving veterans as a natural extension. The group will select a cohort of 10 veteran students out of a pool of 150 students. They will give the students a multi-week crash course in academic preparation during the summer and then the university will make sure the veterans have the support and resources they need to succeed on campus. As part of the Posse program, these veterans will receive tuition-free education.

“Literally, I got chills, because the idea immediately made sense,” Deborah Bial, the executive director of the Posse Foundation, told Allie Grasgeen of Inside Higher Ed when explaining how she reacted to the suggestion of such a program by Vassar President Catharine Bond Hill.

“It’s important to have veterans in really any institution, but especially at elite colleges and universities,” Brian Hawthorne, a board member for the national Student Veterans of America, told Grasgreen. “It’s still a shame that we have many leaders coming out of elite universities with no personal contact with veterans – like, ever. So the more that any university can do to try and address that is certainly a positive step – for that particular campus, but also for our nation.” Another major issue veterans face, according to Hawthorne and acknowledged by Bial, is that veterans face a significant age difference between themselves and their traditional-age classmates, which falls into a more recognizable traditional/non-traditional gap.

“It’s just important to remember that they’re just in another part of their life age-wise, so expecting that they’re all going to live on campus in freshman dorms, or that they’re going to be looking for stuff to do on Friday night and they’re going to go to a student association meeting, is probably a false assumption,” he said.

Bial, however, expects that veterans will fall back on their ingrained sense of teamwork to help eachother succeed in this new theatre.

“If you think about what they’ve been through in the service, it’s a natural fit because their skills and talents and experience should fit in well with this Posse concept,” Bial said. “They’re used to having each other’s backs; that’s how they put it.”