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The Pittsburgh Promise Foundation, Carlow University, Community College of Allegheny county:

Establishing an Educational Support Continuum

The Pittsburgh Promise Foundation, Carlow University, Community College of Allegheny county:

Establishing an Educational Support Continuum

Created in 2007, The Pittsburgh Promise Foundation (The Promise) seeks to promote high educational aspirations among urban youth, fund scholarships for post-secondary access, and fuel a well prepared and diverse regional workforce. To do so, it awards college scholarships to graduates of Pittsburgh public schools who attain at least a 2.5 grade point average and a 90 percent attendance rate, as well as attend one of 136 post-secondary institutions in Pennsylvania, some of which, as “preferred partners,” increase financial aid to Promise students. To date, The Promise has awarded scholarships totaling nearly $135 million to more than 8,800 students across all demographics.

Among its challenges is to serve students in the lowest-performing high schools who often live in poverty and have higher drop-out rates and limited paths to economic mobility. A $2-million grant to The Promise will enable it to launch a four-year, pilot coaching initiative that will deploy eight coaches across Pittsburgh’s Carrick, Milliones, and Perry high schools to work directly with faculty, guidance counselors, and students to increase graduation, eligibility, and participation rates in The Promise program. Initially, The Promise will hire a program director and finalize the program design and operating models for the three high schools, as well as define the transition from high school to the pilot’s “preferred partner” post-secondary schools—Carlow University and Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC)—for as many as 267 students from the three high schools.

Complementing the Foundation’s funding to The Promise for high school coaches are two additional Foundation grants to implement pilot coaching and predictive analytics programs to increase the likelihood that Pittsburgh Promise students who attend either Carlow University or CCAC will graduate within six years.

Carlow University, a private, liberal arts institution in Pittsburgh, offers more than 40 undergraduate majors and more than 18 doctoral, masters, and certificate programs across three campuses and online. Among its 2,000 students, approximately half come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and 22 percent are the first in their families to attend college. Many of these students are Pittsburgh Promise Scholars, who often require remedial education and are more likely to drop out for reasons unrelated to their academic abilities.

A Foundation grant of $898,000 to Carlow University will provide success coaches to Promise Scholars, helping them obtain support services, including persistence workshops; supplemental instruction for critical thinking, reading, and writing; tutoring and supplemental instruction for challenging entry-level courses; financial literacy and self-management skills; resources for books and supplies; stipends for internships; support for housing and food insecurity; and counseling for mental health and family issues. Modeled after a program at Georgia State University that used predictive analytics to increase its six-year graduation rates, Carlow will enable staff to use predictive analytics software as a tool to increase enrollment, retention, and graduation rates, as well as grade point averages and career outcomes for Promise scholars and other at-risk student cohorts.

Founded in 1965, Community College of Allegheny County provides affordable access to high-quality career and transfer education, as well as the promise of upward mobility by offering approximately 160 on-campus and online study programs to students who are disproportionately poor and often the first in their families to attend college. Its open enrollment policy, requiring only a General Education Diploma, makes CCAC a natural destination for Promise Scholars, many of whom need remedial education and face financial and other issues that prevent them from graduating on-time or transferring to a four-year institution.

A Foundation grant of $997,000 will enable CCAC to support one cohort of Pittsburgh Promise Scholars each year for four years with coaches, tutors, and mentors, as well as personalized support and intervention services based on a predictive analytics system CCAC will implement as part of the pilot. All of these resources will help increase students’ grade point averages and retention and graduation or transfer rates. Known as Promise Extension Scholars, these students will be graduates of Pittsburgh public schools with grade point averages between 2.0 and 2.49 and will receive one-year scholarships to attend CCAC. If they maintain at least a 2.0 grade point average, they will become full Promise Scholars, eligible to attend any college of their choice.