Everyone who invests wants to see a healthy return. Saleem Ghubril, executive director of the Pittsburgh Promise, has some statistics to back up his assertion that an investment in the scholarship program that benefits Pittsburgh Public Schools students is money well spent.
In the last three classes, half of the district's graduates received scholarships, which means they were motivated enough to earn the necessary minimum grade point averages and enrolled in either two- or four-year colleges and trade schools.
Not only are students using the scholarships to start their higher education, they're sticking with it. Pittsburgh's class of 2008 sent 481 students on to higher education and the retention rate after their freshmen year was 73 percent, including trade schools and two- and four-year colleges, both public and private institutions.
The greatest number of students, 219, enrolled at the Community College of Allegheny County and 160 of them -- 73 percent -- returned for their sophomore year. That figure compares to retention rates in prior years of just 20 percent, Mr. Ghubril said.
Success is not attributable entirely to the scholarships worth up to $5,000 per year, a figure that will double next year. The Promise also has been aggressive in working with colleges to help Pittsburgh's young people succeed. At CCAC, both because of the large number of city students who enroll and because it's more difficult for students to feel connected at a school without dormitories and around-the-clock activities, the Promise provided $300,000 to cover a two-year start-up of a support program that includes twice-weekly classes that keep the Pittsburgh graduates together as a group.
Although Mr. Ghubril said he has seen anecdotal evidence suggesting the Promise is drawing middle-class families to the city, he is dissatisfied that the city's population loss has not stopped. Likewise, he remains disappointed that more foundations and organizations from outside the city have not stepped up to donate to the Promise, created by Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and school Superintendent Mark Roosevelt and enriched with a 10-year, $100 million challenge grant from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
The Pittsburgh Promise has kept its word in working hard to put city students on the path toward success. The organization deserves support from a region that is dependent on having a vibrant, livable city at its core.