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The Urban Scholars Initiative (USI) helps first-generation and low-income college students realize their human potential by supporting their financial, academic, and emotional needs while they are matriculating at Lesley University. Most of our Urban Scholars are the first in their families to go to college.

At Lesley University, we believe that potential is not defined by one's socioeconomic status. Therefore, the Urban Scholars Initiative provides tuition assistance, tutoring, and mentoring to enable students to graduate from college with modest or no loan debt. ​​​​​​​

Since launching in 2013, over 200 students have participated in the Initiative and the graduation rate has remained consistently high at 90%.

Overcoming Barriers

In the United States and beyond, a college education is the key to economic opportunity. According to a 2011 Georgetown University study, college graduates earn 84% more over their lifetimes than individuals with only a high school diploma. However, high costs can put college out of reach.

The Urban Scholars Initiative at Lesley University lifts many of the financial pressures associated with attending college so that students can focus on what matters most—their education. Providing greater access to higher education is critical to helping students realize their full potential. 

A Social Justice Mission

At its core, the Urban Scholars Initiative has a social justice mission. We want to close the education gap for the students we serve. By empowering these extraordinary students to achieve their dream, we are expanding Lesley’s outreach and transforming lives.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update

When the University moved to remote instruction in March of 2020, the Urban Scholars Initiative (USI) program discontinued on-campus and other in-person services. We are glad to announce we're resuming our operations on campus effective September 30, 2021. We'll also continue to provide remote services to all students in the program. If you have any questions or would like assistance, please contact the Urban Scholars Initiative at

You can find additional COVID-19 information and resources here.

"If I hadn’t found Urban Scholars Initiative, I wouldn’t be at college. I would be working full time."
Joana Martins-Tabora ’17, Urban Scholar
student with a calculator

Urban Scholars Initiative Benefits

Students accepted into the program receive financial, academic, and emotional support to meet the demands of college.

Our Urban Scholars receive: 

  • Tuition discount of 50% off Lesley tuition each year for four years of undergraduate study.
  • Book stipend to minimize the cost of textbooks.
  • Opportunities for additional scholarships to decrease costs. Students with a demonstrated financial need greater than 50% of tuition may apply for an additional donor-supported scholarship.
  • Advising to set goals and expectations, and to assess progress.
  • Monthly seminars on topics ranging from professional development to personal health and well-being in college and beyond.
  • Academic support such as tutoring.
  • Career-oriented internships to gain hands-on experience. All undergraduate students at Lesley complete internships, apprenticeships, practicums, or courses with a professional practice component in their field of interest.
student discussion around a table

Requirements and Eligibility

If you’re interested in the Urban Scholars Initiative, here’s what you should know.

To be eligible, students must have:

  • Participated in, and been recommended by, one of Lesley University’s partner organizations in the Greater Boston area.
  • Met all criteria for undergraduate admission to Lesley University.
  • Demonstrated financial need as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Students with DACA/undocumented status may apply without submitting a FAFSA.

Program requirements

  • Attend Urban Scholars Initiative Summer Transition Week. We require all newly enrolled students to participate in the weeklong introduction to Lesley University and the USI program. Transition week typically takes place during the second week of August (Sunday to Friday).
  • Remain in good academic standing. All students must remain in good academic standing and make satisfactory progress toward degree completion to remain eligible for the Urban Scholars Initiative scholarship and any other related scholarships. A minimum 2.5 GPA is required.
Application Deadlines
Contact the Urban Scholars Initiative (USI)