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Civic Impact

Pittsburgh Promise continues success, paves way for future

Pittsburgh is set to host PromiseNet 2011 -- the country's fourth annual conference of groups that offer hope to eligible students through college scholarships. And it's fitting that Pittsburgh do so, says Pittsburgh Promise Executive Director Saleem Ghubril.

The Pittsburgh Promise offers all Pittsburgh Public Schools graduates who are city residents $20,000 to attend a Pennsylvania college if they maintain an 2.5 GPA on average and a 90-percent attendance rate. The scholarship amount is set to double, to $40,000, for the graduating class of 2012. Only two cities had a Promise program before us, says Ghubril, and none has a larger one. Denver, for instance, will use its $100 million donation pool to target only select schools.

While Ghubril won't have final numbers until the end of November, he says about 3,200 scholarships will have been awarded by then, covering students from the classes of 2008-11. UPMC alone has pledged $100 million over the next 10 years to the Promise, which has a fundraising goal of $250 million by 2018. For the most recent fiscal year, the Promise raised $12.2 million in total donations -- $1 million more than the previous year. 

A recent report shows that more and more students are taking advantage of the Promise: 78 percent of eligible 2010 graduates, compared to 72 percent in 2009 and only 58 percent in 2008. And a RAND study found that the Promise is increasingly a factor in parents' decision to choose Pittsburgh Public Schools.

"We are pretty sure the Promise will be around for 32 to 36 years," Ghubril says. "We're pretty confident that in the year 2040 we'll still be making scholarships."

PromiseNet Conference speakers will include officials from the W.E. Upjohn Institute (talking about the first Promise program in Kalamazoo) and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who will give the keynote address.

Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Saleem Ghubril, Pittsburgh Promise
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