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College renews Posse Program after review

By Stephen Gruber-Miller

The College has decided to renew the Posse program for a five-year contract following studies by the Office of Analytic Support assessing the benefits of the program.

The College currently has contracts with Posse in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., receiving ten students from both cities each year, and has decided to renew both programs.

Vice President for Enrollment Joe Bagnoli expressed enthusiasm for the program’s renewal.

“Our partnership with Posse is a natural expression of the College’s core commitments to academic excellence, diversity and social responsibility,” he said.

The study, called “Posse at Grinnell College: Exploring the Economics, Demographics, and Effectiveness,” found that Posse students have “significantly lower” average SAT and ACT scores than other students.

“Those academic inputs, some might expect, would predict lower retention or graduation rates, but remarkably there is no statistical difference in retention rates, first and second year, between Posse and non-Posse students,” Bagnoli said. Other than one anomalous year, Posse graduation rates are comparable to those of all students.

Posse students also make up a substantial portion of Grinnell’s students of color. Around 74 percent of all Posse students at Grinnell were African-American or Latino, the report stated. These students comprise approximately one fourth of Grinnell’s African-American and Latino students, as well as 13.5 percent of Grinnell’s first generation students.

A second study, called “Posse Leadership Survey,” surveyed faculty and staff members and determined that Posse students were more likely to assume leadership roles on campus, including on campus committees and student organizations, than other students.

The College wants to use Posse to find students that would be overlooked by the normal college application process, Bagnoli said. The goal is to ensure there is space for students who do not have the social or economic capital to stand out in the normal selection process. Posse students pay no tuition.

In renewing Posse, Grinnell is acknowledging that Posse is serving the College’s goals for diversity and leadership. However, the College also recognizes that the program is expensive.

Posse costs $160,000 annually, which covers participation fees paid to the Los Angeles and D.C. branches, mentors for the Posse Plus retreat, travel expenses and the selection process.

In addition to these fees and expenses, the Posse program earns Grinnell $320,000 less each year in tuition than the College would receive if Posse students were replaced with students of average financial need.

So far, the College has not found alternative methods of gaining the kind of diversity that Posse provides.

“We looked at the costs to try and assess cost versus benefit and ask ourselves questions about whether or not there were alternatives that were less costly that could help us achieve the same objectives,” Bagnoli said. “And it’s possible that there are alternatives, but we have not yet demonstrated through any alternatives that we could accomplish on our own what we have accomplished through our partnership with Posse.”

The issue of how the College handles diversity has been at the forefront of the campus conversation following protests by group of students looking for more support for minority students once they arrive at Grinnell. President Raynard Kington sent an all-campus email addressing the issue on the last day before spring break.

“When we return from break, I invite the campus to begin a transparent, civil, and comprehensive discussion of this most important issue,” Kington wrote in the email. “I am working with the Council on Diversity and Inclusion to help guide this discussion, beginning by convening a series of listening sessions with constituency groups.”

Bagnoli also mentioned that Grinnell will continue looking for other ways to strengthen its commitment to diversity. He cited a 30 percent admittance rate of domestic students of color this year.

“That’s a very high number for us at Grinnell and a very high number for places like Grinnell,” he said.

Also unusual is the fact that Grinnell has two Posse programs.

“Most [need-blind institutions] that have Posse just have one,” Bagnoli said. “And the ones that have more than one tend to be the schools that have much larger student populations than Grinnell.”

This year is the College’s tenth working with the D.C. Posse and eleventh with Los Angeles. Since the Posse contracts last for five years, Los Angeles was up for renewal last year, but the College had the deadline extended a year in order to study whether Posse was meeting its goals for diversity and student leadership.

Bagnoli said Grinnell’s success at finding other methods of recruiting a diverse student population will affect the College’s decision to renew the program in five years, but for now, at least, Posse is here to stay.

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  • R

    RoyApr 14, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    Love Posse!!! Can’t believe there was ever a question, but yay!