July 1, 2010; Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | Is this “an incredible moment to be living in Pittsburgh,” as the Pittsburgh Foundation’s president, Grant Oliphant, put it? According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the “prevailing sentiment” among executives of city corporations and philanthropic foundations that this long-troubled Rust Belt city “is standing on the precipice of an economic revival in which Pittsburgh will not only stop losing residents, but start gaining them.”
What caused this effusion? It’s not memories of Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off home run in the seventh game of the 1960 World Series. It is the $11.3 million raised for the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship program, which will leverage an additional $7.6 million from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The fund was established to help “stop the city’s population loss by giving parents an incentive to keep their children in the city schools and helping to increase high school and college graduation rates in the city, has a goal of raising $250 million by June 2018.”
UPMC put up $100 million to help start the scholarship and has pledged up to $10 million to match funds raised by business and civic leaders. As background—this is the program that UPMC and some other tax exempt institutions suggested should substitute for the City’s desire to exact or increase payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs) from nonprofits.
A “Committee of 100” business and civic executives led the Pittsburgh Promise fundraising. Though the city is prepared for a renaissance, the Promise’s $11.3 million fell short of its $15 million target (which would have leveraged $10 million from UPMC). These Pittsburgh civic leaders are very excited about the program. We are interested in the data on these scholarship programs—do they really work to keep kids in school and increase high school and college graduation rates?—Rick Cohen