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Lafayette was featured June 5 on CBS Evening News with Katie Couric in a segment highlighting the Posse Foundation and Lafayette’s Class of 2007 Posse Scholars.

Here is the transcript of a web-exclusive interview with President Daniel Weiss on the CBS Evening News site.

College Head on Posse System

Dan Weiss, the president of Lafayette College, says students with the Posse Foundation not only succeed academically, they make significant contributions to campus life.

Daniel Weiss: Well the Posse graduation rate is almost 100 percent. It’s in the 90s, because we have traditionally graduated almost all of our students. It’s certainly well in excess of the average at our college, and our graduation rate here on our campus is very high as well.

CBS News reporter Wyatt Andrews: So the Posse students graduate at a rate higher than the rest of the school?

DW: They do several things that are quite distinctive. They graduate at a rate higher than the rest of the school, they’re more involved in the life of the campus than most of the students are. They are really leaders on our campus, and they do this because I think the system works. They have each other as a support network, but they are not a clique, they do not hang around with each other all the time. They have each other as a basis upon which to build and to flourish on our campus. So I think it works, the system works very well. It’s a good vision.

WA: I’m asking a cold-eyed question here, Mr. President. I’m asking why is this worth a million dollars every year to this school?

DW: Here at Lafayette, as at all colleges in this country, we’re in the business of investing in people. What we do here is invest in identifying the right kinds of students that we think can be successful here, providing them with opportunities to achieve, and then sending them out into the world to make a contribution. And we spend at Lafayette well over 25 million dollars a year in financial aid for the programs that we support. Our challenge is to identify those students in whom we can invest where we minimize the risk that it isn’t going to be successful, and the Posse program has shown us, through the ways in which it’s designed and the success of the students themselves, that that’s a good investment. These students are successful, they transform our campus, and they move on to do other things that are important to us.

WA: But there’s a much bigger context to that answer, isn’t there? I’m going to take it — and you tell me if I’m right or wrong — I’m going to take it that the president of any liberal arts college in America is fighting to find the minority student that’s going to graduate. Is that a fair observation?

DW: It is. What we’re fighting to do is provide the best possible learning environment for our community, and that means, among other things, having the most diverse group of learners that we can. And that means finding minority students.

WA: And is it fair to say you don’t just want minority students, you want minority students who are going to graduate?

DW: Correct. What we want are students who are can succeed here, wherever they come from.

WA: And is that what Posse does for you?

DW. It does, and it does more than that. It absolutely provides us with students who can succeed here academically, and this has been demonstrably the case in the history of Posse and certainly at Lafayette. But more than that, not only do they succeed academically, they lead. They get involved in programs on our campus to make the learning environment and the living environment richer and more exciting. It’s not enough just to have students who can get good grades. What we want are students who can help make the learning environment rich and lively for all of us, and this they do.

WA: How does this benefit the 88 percent of Lafayette that is not U.S. minority students?

DW: What Posse does so exceptionally well is really integrate the students into our campus, because they are involved in the life of our community. They affect all of us. I found myself last year looking for a leading student to staff a committee that would have one student on it among faculty and administrators. I asked a bunch of people who we might recruit to this important committee, and half the recommendations turned out to be Posse. So we’ve got 2,200 students on our campus, and the recommendations that came to me, many of them, were Posse kids, among the 40 or 50 that we have. That’s what they do. What they do is permeate the community in all the ways that we work here.

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