Editorial: Say yes to education, Pittsburgh

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

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Sending driven high school students to college is a conceptually lauded issue among many demographics. The various methods used to send these bright kids to post-secondary institutions, however, have met with less overarching agreement. Syracuse has proven to be an example Pittsburgh should embody in terms of exponentially increasing college enrollment through national funding measures.

The city of Syracuse is home to inner-city youths that are more prone to drop out of high school than make it to college graduation, a trend that city officials have been trying to reverse. Through a collaboration with the Say Yes to Education campaign, city officials have made a promise that every graduate of the Syracuse City School District will receive a full-tuition scholarship.

Say Yes Syracuse, the city’s chapter of the larger nonprofit, subsidizes the remainder of students’ tuitions after federal financial aid, ensuring students who are part of  the school district have an opportunity to afford, and attend, college. For families making under $75,000 each year, students are guaranteed full tuition at any of 54 private universities nationwide. Syracuse University, one of our fellow Atlantic Coast Conference members, offers full rides to students who graduate from the city’s school district.

Say Yes Syracuse has seen promising results. The Atlantic reports that after the 2011-2012 school year, “89 percent of scholarship recipients enrolled in four-year private colleges, 67 percent enrolled in four-year public colleges, and 66 percent enrolled in two-year colleges proceeded to enter their sophomore year.” All these statistics relating to the Syracuse campaign rank above national averages — 67 percent, 65 percent and 56 percent, respectively.

Cities such as Pittsburgh have also developed forms of fostering high school students’ higher-education aspirations.

The Pittsburgh Promise is an entity that “provides college scholarships to transform the lives of children and vitalize the region.” Essentially, if students want to attend a postsecondary institution, have a 2.5 GPA and attend 90 percent of their classes, they can receive up to $40,000 to cover their expenses. Unfortunately, though, the scholarship is only applicable to universities in Pennsylvania.

Although a $40,000 scholarship over a student’s college tenure is a remarkable step toward a positive trend, students should not be limited to pursuing schools in Pennsylvania. 

While the initiative allows students to enroll in both public or private schools within the state, students who have a drive to go to schools out-of-state quickly become ineligible.

To resolve this, the city of Pittsburgh should work with the Pittsburgh Promise in order to diversify the donors who contribute to the program and possibly gain more inspiration from the Say Yes to Education campaign. National funding measures can only help more students go to college and in turn be more applicable for an increasingly competitive job market.

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