Pittsburgh, a city of neighborhoods built on a foundation of immigration, now lags behind many other urban centers in attracting residents from other countries. It doesn't have to stay that way.
The city's foreign-born residents account for only about 7 percent of its population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey for 2006 to 2010, and Allegheny County's ratio is estimated at about 5 percent. The city's Hispanic population is even smaller, representing just 2.4 percent of the whole, compared with 16.7 percent nationwide.
In recent months, business and nonprofit groups have ramped up attempts to increase the city's population overall by tapping into the immigrant pool. On Thursday, The Pittsburgh Promise -- the nonprofit that was established to lure and retain students to Pittsburgh Public Schools -- joined that effort with a targeted sales pitch.
The program, which extends the possibility of college scholarships worth as much as $40,000 to graduates of city public schools and charters, kicked off a campaign to make sure legal immigrants within a 300-mile radius of Pittsburgh are aware of the Promise scholarships.
The demographic that would be interested in the possibility of having a big chunk of college costs covered is precisely what Pittsburgh needs: young families with children. Throughout its early history, the city proved to be an ideal spot for immigrant families to start new lives in America, and it can become that again.
If the city's relatively low cost of living, its varied housing stock, its lively arts community, world class universities and hospitals, and job prospects that are better than many other locations aren't sufficient to pull more people in, maybe a big discount on a college education will be.
Good luck to The Pittsburgh Promise on this wise venture.