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Pittsburgh Promise Shows Growth; Area Foundation Doubles Contribution

Deanna Garcia
90.5 WESA

Since the inception of the Pittsburgh Promise, 4,101 students have received college scholarships, and that number will go up to more than 4,600 when scholarships for the class of 2013 are factored in.

With 707 recipients graduated from college, program leaders say the Pittsburgh Promise is having a positive impact on students and the district. The 2013 Report to the Community shows some areas of change, including two demographic shifts.

“One of them – we have seen more and more of our lower income students take advantage of the scholarship and two, we have seen more and more African-American students take advantage of the scholarship,” said Promise Executive Director Saleem Ghubril.

The percentage of Promise students who qualify for federal Pell Grants rose from 44 percent in 2008 to 64 percent in 2012, and the percentage of black Promise recipients increased from 39 percent to 45 percent during the same time period.

The Pittsburgh Promise provides scholarships to city residents who graduate from Pittsburgh Public Schools, as long as they have an attendance rate of at least 90 percent and a grade point average of 2.5.

The program is now 67 percent of the way toward its $250 million, 10-year fundraising goal, with $82 million left to raise. The Grable Foundation has committed an additional $5 million on top of the $5 million already pledged, making the $10 million total the largest grant the Grable Foundation has made to date.

“We are deeply grateful to the Grable Foundation and all donors who have invested in our children and in creating a stronger workforce for our future,” Ghubril said.

According to program leaders, another positive area is stabilization in the Pittsburgh school district’s enrollment numbers. Prior to the Pittsburgh Promise they had been rapidly decreasing.

“The declines were even more steep in the years before 2004," Ghubril said. "They were fairly steep from ’04 to ’08, and then generally stabilized in ’08, then leveled off. We’re pleased that the loss of enrollment seems to be coming to a stop and we’re seeing growth in our younger grades, primarily kindergarten and elementary schools.”

While education officials applauded the work of the Promise and the district, they also acknowledge more work needs to be done. To that end, Superintendent Linda Lane said going forward the district needs to ensure students are not just eligible for the Promise, but are “Promise ready.”

“Eligible means you made the requirement around attendance and GPA. Ready means you have a good shot of being successful in school,” Lane said. “And that leads to a couple of the things that we know really correlate with our promise success in terms of finishing college, and that’s attendance and GPA.”

In terms of being ready and successful in higher education, the numbers are looking up, according to the report. It found that retention rates for Promise scholars meet or exceed those of their peers at every institution type: private, public, two-year and four-year.

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