Graduate students bid farewell to the President’s Scholars Program

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Following Lehigh’s decision to terminate the President’s Scholars Program earlier this year, graduate students who are part of the program reflect on its impact on their lives as they near graduation.

The program provides undergraduate students with a tuition-free fifth year if they meet the 3.75 GPA requirement. It has been in implementation for 20 years, but the program will be discontinued starting with the class of 2023.

Current Lehigh students are still eligible to participate in the program given they meet the academic standards.

Ibrahim Hashmi, ’18, ’19G, is an international student from Pakistan. Hashmi is receiving his master’s degree in management. (Courtesy of Ibrahim Hashmi)

Ibrahim Hashmi, ’18, ’19G, an international student from Pakistan, is receiving a master’s in management. He said that if it was not for the President’s Scholars Program, he probably would be home right now struggling to find a job.

“I actually never thought about a master’s degree,” Hashmi said. “I had no intention of doing one, but when I got into my senior year, I felt like I wasn’t ready to go into the job field yet. I needed to know a little bit more of what I wanted to do and have more education.”

Katie Barr, ’18, ‘19G, said the President’s Scholars Program serves as a financial and academic opportunity that helps students face the reality of pursuing careers versus continuing their education.

Hashmi said he could not have afforded a master’s degree without the program.

“I was so confused on what I was going to do since I wanted to further my education,” Hashmi said. “The President’s Scholars Program had the best of both worlds. I had a masters in one year, and it was free.”

Barr said she is thankful for the program because it allowed her to be more clear on her career path and goals. If it were not for the President’s Scholar Program, she might not have been able to get a master’s due to financial reasons.

Katie Barr, ’18, ‘19G, is receiving her master’s in sociology. The President’s Scholar Program has helped Barr obtain her master’s degree at Lehigh. (Courtesy of Katie Barr)

“The financial component has been very important for me because for my undergrad, I definitely could not have gone to Lehigh without the financial aid package I received,” Barr said. “There are far less opportunities for students on the graduate level who might be of lower-income status. It (the program) supports low-income students in many ways.”

After Jennie Brown, ’15, ’16G, graduated from Lehigh with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, she used the Presidential Scholar’s Program to stay an extra year and complete a computer science degree in 2016.

“I was surprised and a little sad to hear it was ending,” Brown said. “It ended up being a big influence on my life, and it’s hard to imagine that opportunity not being available for others. I hope that Lehigh will be able to put that money toward creating valuable opportunities like this to future students.”

Brown now works as a software engineer at Google.

Barr said she considered the program great for the students and an important marketing opportunity for the university as well.

Barr encouraged the upcoming class of 2023 and beyond to remain motivated and to continue to look for other graduate programs at Lehigh or other schools.

“Lehigh needs to have a program which gives (its) undergrads an incentive like this that motivates them and rewards them for their hard work,” Hashmi said.

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