In September 2014, Vassar welcomed the most diverse freshman class in its history. More than 42 percent of the members of the new Class of 2018 were students of color, 43 percent were men, 74 were first-generation college students, and 105 were international students with either foreign or dual citizenship. Sixty percent were receiving need-based financial aid from Vassar, demonstrating the College’s commitment to recruiting talented students from across the socioeconomic spectrum – an ongoing priority that caused the New York Times to rate Vassar #1 among top colleges and universities for its efforts in this area.
And diversity at Vassar takes a variety of forms. Ten newly minted members of the Class of 2018 – seven men and three women, who variously completed service in the Army, Army National Guard, Navy and Marines – joined eleven members of the Class of 2017 to bring the number of students on campus through the Vassar Veterans Posse Program to 21. Their presence is the result of the College’s pioneering partnership with the Posse Foundation to increase the number of veterans of America’s recent wars who attend and graduate from selective colleges and universities. Based on Posse’s successful cohort model, each veteran attends college as part of a small group of students, a “posse” (in this case, of fellow veterans) who receive academic support prior to matriculating and continued mentoring once enrolled. Through its partnership with the Posse Foundation, Vassar is supplementing available federal funding to guarantee full tuition for every veteran student selected.
“You will all bring exceptional life experience and achievement to the Vassar community,” President Catharine Hill, who initially proposed the idea, told the new group at a selection celebration ceremony in January 2014. Eduardo de la Torre ’17, a member of the first Vassar Veterans Posse, told the College’s incoming student-veterans, “You will probably find this experience counterintuitive from the military way, or the way you would expect to think, but open yourself up to thinking differently.” Fellow posse member Fernando Braga ’17 added, “The opportunity is yours, but not just yours. It’s very different from the military but also very much like the military. When things come up you can look to your left and right and know someone is there for you.”
The same month that the 10 student-veterans of ’18 arrived at Vassar, Wesleyan University became the second institution to join the program when it welcomed its own first posse of veteran students as freshmen. “The young men and women returning from military service in Iraq and Afghanistan have allowed our traditional students to go directly to college after high school without worrying about a draft,” noted President Hill. “In return, we should now not only open our doors to these veterans, but give them the tools and support they need to succeed.”