The Pittsburgh Promise’s 2013 report indicates it is living up to its name more so with each passing year. Since it began in 2008, the program has allocated nearly $40 million in scholarships with 42 percent going to African-American students.

During the Sept. 23 press conference on the report’s release, Executive Director Saleem Ghubril also gratefully announced that the Grable Foundation had awarded the program an additional $5 million towards its overall $250 million funding goal.

“With their support, The Pittsburgh Promise has become the largest and most inclusive campaign of all Promise initiatives in the United States,” he said.
The gift brings the promise within $82 million of its funding target. It is reaching its academic targets also.

Through this year, African-American females accounted for 27 percent of promise scholarships, with White females making up 28 percent.  White males comprised 23 percent of the total and African-American males receiving 15 percent of the scholarships. Of these, 39 percent are so financially needy that their family contribution to higher education is zero.

The idea was to give poor kids in the Pittsburgh Public Schools who could not afford it a chance to attend college. It now awards up to $40,000 to qualifying students to not only attend two- or four-year in-state college, but also trade-specific technical schools and degree programs.

Another of the program’s goals was to stem precipitous drop in enrollment Pittsburgh schools had been experiencing, and to lure families back to the city—and boost its tax rate—with the promise of nearly free college for their children.  Though Ghubril can’t specifically credit the Promise for the trend, anecdotal evidence suggests that is occurring.

“Kindergarten enrollment is actually grown in the last two years,” he said. “Our city is beginning to grow younger and bigger again.”

And though students need only achieve a 2.5 GPA, at least half are attaining a 3.0 average. The retention rate at four-year schools are running at 80 percent for Promise scholars, but only around 62 percent at two-year schools.

Similarly, the number of students within the district who qualify as “promise ready” varies widely from school to school. Pittsburgh CAPA had 99 percent of its students eligible, while Allderdice and Obama both averaged 83 percent. At the other end of the spectrum were Westinghouse and University Prep, with 52 percent and 51 percent respectively.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpitts­burgh­courier.com.)



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