The Pittsburgh Promise has issued its annual report, and overall it's doing well. The first goal, to transform the quality of public education in the state, is on the right track, according to Promise Executive Director Saleem Ghubril.
“In the last six years high school completion rates in Pittsburgh went from about 62 percent, 63 percent to 71 percent, so we’re delighted by that growth,” he said, “having said that, it’s not where we want to be, we want to be at at least 85 percent.”
The Pittsburgh Promise offers up to $40,000 to students who graduate from Pittsburgh Public Schools, and meet minimum grade requirements, to pursue higher education in state.
Another part of the goal is increasing access to higher education to kids in the city. There are about 3,800 kids in college on scholarship right now, and Ghubril said they are doing well. The Promise also aims to keep more kids in Pittsburgh once they complete their higher education. The first batch of Promise kids recently graduated, so information on how that’s going is starting to materialize.
“About 600 kids who received a Promise scholarship completed their post-secondary and many of them are now working in the Pittsburgh market, and some of them started small businesses,” said Ghubril.
Overall, officials said the Promise is working, but acknowledge there is still room for improvement.
“We recognize that we still have some major systemic issues that need to be dealt with,” said Ghubril.
Those issues include the racial achievement gap and years of declining enrollment numbers.
In an effort to attract more students to the Pittsburgh Public School system, the Promise announced an initiative to reach out to Latino families in the region.
“While Latinos right now make up the largest single minority group in the country, about 16 percent or so, in Pittsburgh they represent only two percent and we’re missing out on economic and cultural and creative opportunities if we stay at that two percent level,” said Ghubril.
A fundraising update was also given. There is an overall goal of $250 million, and so far $160 million has been raised, with six years left to meet the goal.