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Pittsburgh Promise’s NEED is met

by Christian Morrow, Courier Staff Writer, April 24, 2009

Organizations unite to benefit studentsEdit

The Pittsburgh Promise has announced a new partnership arrangement that may ensure that more students realize the benefits of the novel college education program.

The partnership is with the Negro Emergency Education Drive, and was unveiled during an April 21, 2009 press conference in Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s office.

NEED President and CEO Sylvester Pace and Pittsburgh Promise Executive Director Saleem Ghubril announce a partnership to better serve college eligible students.

“Combining the talents and resources of these two organizations will be of immense benefit to students,” said Ravenstahl. “NEED is already working with 10- to 12th-graders in Pittsburgh schools and expanding to serve eighth- and ninth-graders. The Promise is about creating an educated work force that hopefully will remain to work in our fair city.”

Since 1963, NEED has awarded more than $19 million in college grants to nearly 19,000 students. In addition to grants and scholarships, NEED also provides low-income students with the counseling and monitoring services, and internship opportunities that can make the difference as they prepare to enter college.

Pittsburgh Promise Executive Director Saleem Ghubril said since his focus is on building the pool of funds available to qualifying students, partnering with NEED to provide student aide counseling and application assistance is a no-brainer.

“It doesn’t make sense to go into that business when NEED has been doing it since before I was born,” he said. “With this partnership, every eligible student can pursue all of NEED’s services.”

NEED President and CEO Sylvester Pace said when he first visited the Kalamazoo (Mich.) Promise, on which the Pittsburgh Promise is based, he noticed a need for a college readiness program and to help students deal with the mountain of loan grant application paperwork.

“So with this partnership we are taking a comprehensive approach to assisting students in navigating the college aid maze,” he said. “We’re ready now to work hand-in-hand, specifically focusing on 12th graders to make sure they meet all timelines and deadlines. It’s a daunting process and it’s where most low-income, first-generation students can fall through the cracks.”

Specifically NEED will provide:

  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid completion workshops presented by trained NEED advisors;
  • FAFSA completion assistance and advise, and
  • Online FAFSA registration and PIN acquisition for parents.

“We’ll go through the applications line-by-line if needed,” said Pace. “A lot of these students are the first in their family to go to college—this is huge.”

NEED will also assist Pittsburgh Public School seniors with scholarship searches, and college searches to align students’ interests and capabilities with the correct college, and will also help students make sure they are taking the proper high school courses to gain admission to their chosen school.

The Pittsburgh Promise was conceived in 2007 as a way to lure families to Pittsburgh and its school district by offering a free college education to students who graduated after attending all 12 years of primary school with a 2.25 grade point average and 85 percent attendance.

Promise funding included an initial $10 million gift from UPMC, with the promise of another $90 million in the form of a challenge grant requiring public contributions of $135 million over the next 10 years.

Ghubril said the Promise would provide a detailed breakdown for its first year in either late May or Early June. Only about half of the 1,600 eligible students from the class of 2008 enrolled in the Promise’s first year.

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