The Pittsburgh Promise Reports Gains in Number of Scholars, Funds Raised, Number of Donors, and Growing Influence on Students and Parents

RAND Report Confirms Program is Moving in Positive Direction

Pittsburgh to Host National "Promise" Conference in October

Sep 12, 2011, 10:30 ET from The Pittsburgh Promise

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 12, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The Pittsburgh Promise today issued its third annual report to the community, highlighting its impacts on the region's efforts to improve educational outcomes and workforce development of city high school students and graduates continuing their education beyond high school.  

Community leaders gathered at the Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12 School, downtown, for the annual update.  In addition to UPMC Promise Scholar Vanessa Thompson, a senior at Chatham University, and Mark Byers, a senior at Pittsburgh Perry High School, telling their stories about the importance of the program to their college plans, other speakers included: Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Pittsburgh Promise Board Chair Franco Harris, Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Linda Lane, Dr. Gabriella Gonzalez from the RAND Corporation, and Saleem Ghubril, executive director of The Pittsburgh Promise.  

Mayor Ravenstahl, a co-founder of The Pittsburgh Promise, said, "The Promise is giving hope to more people and a great incentive to live in our city.  With scholarships of up to $40,000 per child, it's yet another compelling reason to raise a family in America's most livable city."  He also commented on the fact that Pittsburgh will be host next month to a national conference of representatives from Promise programs across the country, and acknowledged the national recognition The Promise has generated for the city with the scholarship program being featured on CNN, USA Today, NFL Network and in Parent's Magazine during the past year.  

"Since its inception, The Promise has been a motivational driver in our education reform efforts in Pittsburgh," said Dr. Linda Lane.  "Our plan for getting students Promise-Ready and prepared for success after graduation is working based on the increase of the percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced on the PSSA and by the increasing number of students continuing their education beyond high school," said Dr. Lane.  

Impact on Students and Funding

Promise Executive Director Saleem Ghubril provided a summary of the program's impact on students.  During the past three years, approximately $16 million in Pittsburgh Promise scholarship funds has been invested in 2,500 high school graduates who enrolled in 80 different post-secondary colleges, universities, or trade schools in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. During the upcoming 2011/2012 school year, another 700 graduates from the Pittsburgh Public Schools will join the ranks of Promise scholars as they begin their post-high school education program.

Among the successes of the program is the upward trend of students who are using Promise funds for enrollment in post-secondary education institutions.  About 78% of the graduating class of 2010 who were eligible used Promise funds for on-time enrollment in the fall of 2011, compared with 72% of the class of 2009 and 58% of the class of 2008.

"As our students complete their post-secondary education and join our region's workforce, their impact on our economy is going to be significant, to say the least," said Saleem Ghubril, executive director of The Pittsburgh Promise.  "Our scholars are taking this great opportunity very seriously, and responding with hard work and gratitude.    I, too, am grateful for the vision of our mayor, our schools' leadership, UPMC, and the numerous foundations, companies and individuals who are making this possible."

For the year ending June 30, 2011, The Pittsburgh Promise received $12.2 million in donations from foundations, corporations and individuals, representing an increase of $1 million from the previous year.  

In a continuing difficult economic environment, The Promise has financial commitments of $147 million to date from UPMC, foundation, corporate and community investors and remains secure in its financial position.  "But, we have a long way to go to reach our goal of raising $250 million if we are to fulfill our promise to support three generations of students.  This is a marathon with a finish line in 2018," added Ghubril.

RAND Study Finds The Promise Is Off To A Solid Start in Its Early Years

During the past year, the RAND Corporation assessed the early progress of The Promise and provided feedback on how the program can continue to make improvements to meet its goals.  Dr. Gabriella Gonzalez, a social scientist from RAND, summarized the study's key findings. The full report, a research brief, and video of Dr. Gonzalez's summary are available at  

Although it is too early in the program's implementation to fully gauge the program's effects—time is needed for a full cohort of students to attend and graduate from high school, complete college, and enter the workforce—RAND's analysis suggests that The Promise is making progress toward its strategic goals. The study found that in the early years of the program, The Promise is off to a solid start and is showing positive results on a number of areas:

  • The Promise is reported to be a very important factor in parents' decisions to enroll their children in public or charter schools within the district: On average, parents with children new to the district rated The Promise highest in importance among 11 factors that might have influenced their decision to move their children.

  • Students reported being motivated by The Promise funds to strive for a 2.5 GPA, attend school regularly, and seek post-secondary education.  In addition, they reported that their parents pushed them to attend school and meet the 2.5 GPA requirement that would make them Promise-ready.

  • Although PPS and college enrollment patterns cannot be attributed directly to the Promise, RAND researchers found two positive trends. First, student enrollment in PPS traditional public and charter schools has been stabilizing, rather than continuing to decline, and second, there has been a steady increase in college enrollment among PPS high school graduates eligible for Promise funds since the program began.

To ensure continued improvements in the coming years, RAND researchers recommended that The Promise conduct earlier outreach, provide more personalized communications to younger students about the program's scholarship opportunities, and institute  a mentoring program to pair Promise scholars with high school students.

Commenting on RAND's findings, Dr. Linda Lane said, "The study captured the essence of what has taken place since the program's inception.  The Promise is, no doubt, a central focus of many of our education reform efforts in the city schools.  We are in the process of designing a mentoring initiative that engages Promise scholars with our high school students for the purpose of helping them to become college-ready."

"RAND's study confirms what we already know about the growing support of and involvement with The Promise in our community," said Saleem Ghubril, executive director of The Pittsburgh Promise.  "Independently, the RAND study prescribes a deeper level of engagement with families, students and the community-at-large, which we are actively pursuing."

National Promise Conference in Pittsburgh, Oct. 19-21, 2011

PromiseNet 2011 will also showcase Pittsburgh, a city that is forging an exciting new future for itself through its commitment to higher education. Some of the nation's most influential leaders in education and economic development will be here to share case studies, stories and perspective on similar programs that have emerged in recent years in cities across America.  

PromiseNet Conference guest speakers include:  Officials from the W.E. Upjohn Institute who will discuss the progress made from the first Promise program in Kalamazoo, PPS Superintendent Dr. Linda Lane, Former PPS Superintendent and President of Antioch College Mark Roosevelt, and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has been invited to deliver a keynote address at this event. For more information about this national conference, pleases view

About The Pittsburgh Promise

The Pittsburgh Promise, a scholarship program for Pittsburgh Public School students, advocates for improving the quality of education and increasing the preparedness and diversity of the region's workforce. Pittsburgh has the largest Promise program in the United States. For more information about The Pittsburgh Promise, visit

SOURCE The Pittsburgh Promise