People don’t always take help when it’s offered the first time. Others look a gift horse in the mouth, only to regret it later.
In a commendable effort to let no one slip through the cracks, the Pittsburgh Promise college scholarship program is offering a second chance to Pittsburgh Public Schools graduates who never used the funds available to them. The project includes career counseling to help them decide whether they want to go to college or enroll in career and technical education programs — including some crucial to the region’s growing economy.
The Promise in recent years pledged as much as $40,000 in scholarships to each of those who graduated from city high schools. Having decided to lower the maximum to ensure the program’s sustainability, the Promise will offer as much as $30,000 to each of those graduating in 2017 and later. Actual scholarship amounts vary based on college costs and each recipient’s length of time in the city school system.
So far, the Promise has provided some 7,100 graduates with more than $91 million, money they have been able to use for tuition and other expenses at Pennsylvania colleges, universities and career and technical schools. But between 2012 and 2015, 2,200 or so graduates either passed on the scholarships or halted their post-secondary schooling for some reason, leaving money earmarked for them on the table.
The Promise circled back to these 2,200 and persuaded 17 of them to participate in an eight-week pilot program that explores their career options and helps them decide on educational goals. The program, operated partly by the Community College of Allegheny County, is funded with the participants’ Promise money. At the end of the eight weeks, they may put their remaining funds toward post-secondary education costs.
The outreach gives graduates, who may have matured a great deal since their high school days, a fresh opportunity. Some may decide that college is right for them after all. Others may choose career and technical school, and research indicates that will be a ready market for advanced skills of various types.
Earlier this year, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development released a report predicting that, by 2025, the region will be short as many as 80,000 workers because of retirements and lagging recruitment efforts. The report cited a pressing need for workers with certain bachelor’s degrees, such as science and engineering, but also predicted high demand for certain “sub-baccalaureate” skills, such as those pertaining to health care, utilities and transportation. The report also predicted a blurring of job descriptions, with employers requiring both knowledge in a field — say, business — with information technology skills.
The Promise intends to keep reaching out to those who haven’t availed themselves of scholarships. From the time they graduate high school, prospective recipients have four years to claim the funds they’ve earned. Graduates who have been out of high school a while don’t have to go through the pilot program to access their funds now. They merely have to apply, and pittsburghpromise.org explains how.
These graduates shouldn’t delay any longer. Time is money.