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The Foreword

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The Foreword

Pittsburgh Promise Reminds PPS Families of its End in 2028

2023-24 Promise Ambassadors — The Pittsburgh Promise

The Pittsburgh Promise, the privately funded scholarship for Pittsburgh Public School students to afford in-state university tuition, recently reminded families that its financial support for students will be ending in five years, with the class of 2028 being the last year to be eligible for the funds.

Pittsburgh Promise Executive Director Saleem sent a letter to PPS families on September 15th as an “important reminder” that this year’s 8th graders will be the final group eligible to receive the scholarship. Ghubril explained in the letter that while they are confident they will reach their $265 million fundraising goal established back when the program was founded, they do not believe the private sector (including local corporations, individuals, and foundations) will be able to raise enough funds to keep the program running past 2028. Ghubril told The Foreword that the purpose of the letter was “to make sure that all families in PPS are equipped with accurate information as they make plans for their children’s future.” 

This announcement that the scholarship is ending is not new, however. “It was known from the very beginning the money was finite,” said Ghubril. “However, we did not have data to help us name the actual year.” It was in 2015 that the Promise finally had enough experience to name the final year of their flagship program – 2028. The class of 2028 was in kindergarten at that time, and the Promise expresses their joy that they were able to succeed in its goal of providing secondary education to an entire generation of Pittsburgh students. According to the Promise, they have provided over $170 Million in scholarships to over 11,000 students since the program’s beginning in 2008.

The Promise started out as an idea from former Pittsburgh Public Superintendent Mark Roosevelt and former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl in 2006. They presented it to the public but received no funding until the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers made the first donation with a $10,000 check. The program became a reality in 2008 after UPMC pledged to pay $100 million over 10 years on the condition that the Promise would raise another $150 million from other funders. While the Promise fell $56 million short of their $150 million goal, UPMC kept its end of the deal making a final donation of $41 million in 2017.

The Promise is one of the few widespread scholarship programs in the country that is privately funded. It has always been supported by private corporations and foundations, taking no tax-payer money. The Promise believes it could be more sustainable if it got public funding, but local tax-payers in Allegheny County have voted in opposition to the idea. “We have attempted to secure support from public sources, but none was provided,” Ghubril told The Foreword.

Even though their flagship scholarship program might be ending, this is not the end of the Pittsburgh Promise organization. In his letter to PPS families, Ghubril explained that the board and staff of the Promise are still dedicated to their commitment to affordable and quality post-secondary education for Pittsburgh high school students. When asked exactly what that will entail, Ghubril states “It is now premature to provide specifics.” While he didn’t give an exact answer, in the letter he explained they will continue to advocate for the public sector to commit to a sustainable policy solution for funding post-secondary education in Pennsylvania.

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