Though the Pittsburgh Promise has given nearly $72 million in scholarships to 6,146 students since its inception yielding 1,296 college graduates, Executive Director Saleem Ghubril said the program can still get more kids “Promise-ready.”
To that end, Ghubril said during the press announcement of its 2015 annual report, the Promise is recommending that Pittsburgh Public Schools approve conducting SAT testing for juniors and seniors during regular school days, rather than on weekends.
This comes in response to data noting that while 70 percent of graduates from city schools between 2008 and 2015 were eligible for the Promise, only half took advantage of it.
“Research (conducted by the University of Pittsburgh) indicates that regardless of their score, students taking the SAT are 30 percent more likely to pursue higher education,” he said. “We think the mere act of taking the test will make a difference.”
Ghubril also noted that in the past he had only been able to report trends supporting the Promise’s effectiveness. This year, data confirm it is making a difference.
Again, quoting researchers from Pitt who analyzed college enrollment and retention, Ghubril said, “Findings suggest The Promise scholarship is, indeed, having a statistically significant positive impact on college enrollment, enrollment at four-year institutions, and persistence into the second year of college.”
In another effort to extend the scholarship program’s reach, Ghubril announced earlier this year that the total, full scholarship award offered would be reduced from $40,000 to $30,000. This would make the program available to students through 2028.
Arguably, the Promise is succeeding in its primary goals of increasing graduation rates and adding skilled and educated individuals to the workforce, while increasing enrollment and decreasing the city’s population loss.
•According to the annual report:
•Graduation rates increase from 63 percent to 71 percent in the program’s first seven years;
•Students enrolling in post-secondary education increased from 58 percent to 68 percent;
•School enrollment declines are stabilizing;
•Kindergarten enrollment has increased over the last two years; and
•City population is increasing.
But even after an extension program was added to reach borderline eligible students, one segment of the student population continues to lag others—Black males.
To date, 1,753 African American females have earned scholarships, followed by 1,729 White females and 1,429 White males. Just 1,039 African American males received scholarships.
Travis Wilkins, now at BNY Mellon, is one of them. He was on hand at the report announcement event to thank the Promise for the opportunity it has given him. He said many of his friends never gave a thought to college until the Promise was announced.
“I think the idea of igniting a little fire in someone, giving them a thought is powerful,” he said. “That’s something the Promise is able to do. Ultimately, it did help me get to college and to where I am today.”
But to keep its promise to the class of 2028, the program still needs to raise $68 million of its $250 million target. Ghubril said those efforts are continuing, and noted that last week the Heinz Endowments recently announced a $6 million award to the Promise, bring it’s total commitment to $16 million.
Promise Board Chair Franco Harris said the organization will “continue to move forward with a grand and challenging mission of helping to make higher education attainable for our children.”
“We have also been entrusted with significant resources to carry it out,” he said.
“We hold ourselves, our management, and our staff accountable to delivering results that are worthy of your trust and worthy of our kids.”
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