The Pittsburgh Foundation

The Pittsburgh Promise issues 2012 report to the community

  • Study Reports Retention Rates of Promise Scholars Higher vs. U.S.
  • High School Completion Rates Rise Steadily at Pittsburgh Public Schools
  • Recent Promise Scholar Graduates Land Jobs at Local Companies
  • Scholarship Fund Achieves 64% of 10-Year Fundraising Goal in First Four Years
  • Executive Scholars Program Launched, Creating Pipeline for Future Workforce
  • Promise Promotes Pittsburgh in New Ways

PITTSBURGH, September 27, 2012 – The Pittsburgh Promise today issued its fourth annual report to the community. The report highlights the program’s impact on the first four-year college graduating class of Promise Scholars, its progress in influencing both high school and college retention rates, as well as its role in promoting urban education reform. The annual report also previewed new promotional campaigns featuring Promise Scholars in the workplace, ads to attract Latinos to Pittsburgh, and a real estate outreach effort featuring the $40,000 Promise scholarship benefit for city homeowners who send their children to Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Community leaders, donors, city school district and Promise officials gathered at the headquarters of youth retailer American Eagle Outfitters at Southside Works for the annual update. American Eagle’s new CEO Robert Hanson, a newcomer to Pittsburgh, hosted today’s meeting and offered his perspective on Pittsburgh and the Promise. Promise Executive Director Saleem Ghubril presented benchmark updates, unveiled new initiatives and moderated the program featuring Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Linda Lane, University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center’s Dr. Jennifer Iriti, and Melanie Harrington, CEO of Vibrant Pittsburgh.

Mayor Ravenstahl, a co-founder of The Pittsburgh Promise, said, “Four years ago we embarked on this exciting program that was not without risk considering the goal of raising $250 million on the front end of an economic downturn. Today, we are more confident than ever that Pittsburgh has embraced this opportunity while giving hope to more young people to pursue their dreams, and providing families with a great incentive to live in our city. Once again, The Promise was featured among the reasons that Pittsburgh was recently named among the top 10 cities for raising a baby, this time by, who said that Pittsburgh “already pictures your baby with a diploma in hand.”

School Superintendent Dr. Linda Lane expressed her appreciation to the entire community for its ongoing commitment and investment in education. “During the past five years, The Promise has been a driving force among teachers, staff and especially students in our education reform efforts. From Kindergarten until high school graduation, today our students know their goal is ‘promise-readiness.”

“We now have evidence through our PPS alumni who have completed their post-secondary education and are now a part of our region’s workforce that The Promise is a key motivator and a meaningful financial factor for those who might not otherwise be able to pursue their dreams,” said Dr. Lane.

Study Finds Promise Scholars Meet or Exceed National Retention Rates

During the past year, the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC) Study Research Team, led by Dr. Jennifer Iriti, analyzed early data on Promise Scholar retention (first- to second-year continuation) and persistence (degree completion) in their post-secondary pursuits. It also describes the practices that selected institutions of higher education use to support Scholars, as well as ongoing challenges to persistence they are working to address. Below are several key findings from the study called “Realizing The Promise: Scholar Retention and Persistence in Post-Secondary Education.” A summary and full report are available at

  • At every type of four-year or two-year academic institution, Promise Scholar retention rates were equal to or higher than national comparisons. Scholars were retained from Year 1 to Year 2 as well as or better than the American College Testing (ACT) national sample from the same years: 76% of Promise Scholars stayed in their post-secondary education programs compared to just 66% retention among students in the same years in the national sample.
  • Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) recognize the challenges to retention and persistence, and in many cases are intervening and supporting students by having dedicated staff to orient, guide, monitor and assist Scholars in academic, financial, personal, and social dimensions.
  • Much like the PPS goal of achieving a high school graduation rate of 85%, The Promise’s goal is for 85% of Promise Scholars to complete some form of post-secondary education or workforce certification. In both cases, these goals are higher than the national average.
  • The Promise initiative is a substantial social change effort that, if successful, would transform the city’s economic and education conditions. However, the Promise scholarship is but one component of a larger ‘ecosystem’ that influences the achievement of The Promise long-term goals. Other components include: city agencies/policies/practices, non-profit support services, community groups and businesses to name a few. Intentional coordination of the “Promise Ecosystem” might yield more power in achieving the Promise’s long-term goals.

Scholarship Fund at 64% of 10-Year Goal in First Four Years

During the past four years, the community has invested approximately $25 million in Pittsburgh Promise scholarship funds in support of 3,285 high school graduates who enrolled in 91 different post-secondary public and private colleges and universities, career training companies, and vocational and trade programs in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. During the current 2012/2013 school year, an estimated 700 recent graduates from the Pittsburgh Public Schools join the ranks of Promise scholars as they begin their post-secondary education.

Through June 30, 2012, the end of The Promise’s fiscal year, the scholarship fund has financial commitments of $160 million from UPMC, foundation, corporate and community investors. This amount represents 64% toward the 10-year fundraising goal of $250 million.

Executive Scholars Program Launched, Creating Pipeline for Future Workforce

Twenty-five 2012 high school graduates have been selected as he first class of Executive Scholars of The Pittsburgh Promise which matches Promise Scholars with Pittsburgh companies who have provided unprecedented support to The Promise. The opportunity to be named among the UPMC, Highmark, Giant Eagle, PNC, or BNY Mellon scholars offers invaluable connections and relationships which could, if desired by the students and the companies, serve as a pipeline for internships and eventual employment.

The program provides scholars with the chance to build professional networks in the Pittsburgh region during their college years. Criteria for being chosen among Executive Scholars of The Pittsburgh Promise includes: academic performance (3.5 GPA and above), commitment to community, demonstrated leadership skills, dedication to education, and field of study. The Promise also seeks students who are committed to the Pittsburgh region and plan to work in, and contribute to, the region following graduation. A listing of the first class of Executive Scholars is available at

Promoting Pittsburgh in New Ways

In addition to being a factor for various Pittsburgh ‘livability’ rankings, The Promise is actively partnering with various organizations to conduct outreach efforts aimed at promoting Pittsburgh as a great place to live and work, including a campaign to recruit the Latino population to the region, a real estate signage program promoting the value of a $40K Pittsburgh Promise scholarship, and a campaign featuring Promise Scholars now “At Work.”

The Promise initiated an outreach project to attract and welcome Latinos to Pittsburgh in partnership with key leaders of Pittsburgh’s Hispanic community, as well as leaders in the corporate, philanthropic, nonprofit education, political and community development sectors. This initiative includes a series of television ads featuring immigrants now working in Pittsburgh who are already contributing to the health, vitality of the economy and quality of life in western Pennsylvania. The ads will run in cities within a 300-mile radius of Pittsburgh where the Latino population is significant but not deeply rooted. Melanie Harrington, CEO of Vibrant Pittsburgh, previewed the ads in today’s report to the Community.

In conjunction with local realtors, The Promise has created and distributed the first 250 drop-down yard signs with the message, “Eligible for Up to a $40,000 College Scholarship per Child.” This sign is intended to highlight the educational value of city living to attract former and new residents to Pittsburgh.

Finally, a series of ads were previewed at today’s report featuring six Promise Scholars who graduated from their post-secondary education programs this past June and are now employed by Pittsburgh companies. The campaign is titled, “The Pittsburgh Promise At Work” and features each young adult in their new work environment. The outdoor campaign launches in October. The ads and signage referenced above can be viewed at

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