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'Pittsburgh Promise' Meets Fundraising Goal for Scholarships

The Pittsburgh Promise has this horn to blow: It has met its 2009 fundraising goal of $15 million. (It actually collected $15.2 million.) This will mean that the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center will have to fulfill its own promise to commit $100 million over the next 10 years. The Medical Center made this challenge back in 2007.

The Pittsburgh Promise gives Pittsburgh public school graduates college scholarships of up to $5,000 a year if they meet certain academic criteria. By 2012, scholarships of up to $10,000 will be available.

The original Promise program, in Kalamazoo, Mich., inspired a number of similar programs, including the one in Pittsburgh.

Many scholarships have been granted and some reports show that such programs can boost enrollment in local schools and increase property values. An analysis of two Promise programs, conducted by the management consultants at McKinsey & Co. when Pittsburgh was considering its program, finds similar benefits. A repository of research on the Kalamazoo program is here.

Stemming family flight from district schools and increasing real estate values have obvious monetary benefits for districts and schools. And going to college with money in hand would certainly help many students. But is there any research out there that shows that Promise programs actually help keep kids in high school long enough to graduate in greater numbers? Is the potential financial help out there enough of an incentive to boost high school completion?

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