The Pittsburgh Promise college scholarship program was founded not only to help students afford postsecondary education but to stem population loss and build a skilled workforce for the region. Forward-thinking plans unveiled in recent days will help to leverage the program’s full potential.
The Promise board voted Tuesday to extend scholarship eligibility to the Wilkinsburg students who began attending a city high school, Pittsburgh Westinghouse 6-12, last fall. The Pittsburgh Public Schools accepted about 200 students from Wilkinsburg, which closed its high school after 110 years.
The Wilkinsburg newcomers deserve the same benefits as their city peers. Creating two tiers of students would send the wrong message in a region already rife with parochialism, and the area needs as many well-educated residents as it can get. Students graduating from city high schools in 2017 and beyond are eligible for as much as $30,000 from the Promise, funded largely with a $100 million gift from UPMC.
Realizing the benefit to their community, civic leaders in Wilkinsburg already are working to raise money for the Promise. The early support is encouraging.
Also, Pittsburgh Councilman Corey O’Connor has introduced legislation that would complement the Promise’s efforts to build a pool of talented workers. Under his proposal, grants of up to $10,000 would be awarded to companies that hire Promise alumni, with the money divided between the employer and employee. Mr. O’Connor wants to start the program with $60,000 in city funds, but private fundraising should be the main source of financing.
Local leaders are wise to try to deepen the Promise’s impact. Extending eligibility to Wilkinsburg’s high school students is a way to make them feel welcome in their new school — and to remind them that they have promise, too.