Protecting The Promises

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At its best, the Promise movement attacks the opportunity gap. But to sustain a Promise program is hardly an easy task. By design, such a program motivates students to perform well academically thus a growing number are expected to meet the requirements each year. On top of that, there is no indication that increasing college costs will level off.

So Promise programs — perhaps the best intervention in attacking the opportunity gap — struggle to keep up. Most of the recent Promise news is focused on finance. Here’s a spin around the nation:

star-denverVoters in Denver, Colo., might be asked to take on responsibility of funding the Denver Scholarship Foundation. The proposal before the Denver City Council is a sales tax increase of 0.08 percent — less than a penny for a $10 purchase — which would generate about $10 million for the scholarship organization. One councilman reported that his constituency is asking why this has become a city responsibility, but a recent study uncovered a nine-fold return on money spent by the Denver Scholarship Foundation. That in a state that has been ranked 47th in the U.S. for higher education funding.

Known locally as UIC, the University of Illinois-Chicago recently stepped up to sweeten the pot for recipients of the Chicago Star Scholarship, which gives free community college tuition to high-performing city students. UIC has offered guaranteed admission and up to $5,000 in support for those who earn an associate’s degree through the program. And outspoken Mayor Rahm Emanuel promised to be knocking on the doors of others to talk about their “responsibility to the kids of Chicago.” Emanuel made it clear that he wants higher ed support and he wants it soon, saying, “It would be easy to step back, observe the problem, study the problem, have a couple papers written on the problem, have a symposium on the problem, discuss what people should do about the problem and then go for a break and have a cup of coffee.”

Down in Greensboro, N.C., where more than $25 million has been raised toward an endowment for a Say Yes To Education program, city officials were hardly unanimous in their support of the initiative. At issue? The leaders of the campaign did not reach out to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners until “the ninth inning,” according to the board chair. That county board is also displeased that the early discussion did not include the county’s charter school students, which is “significantly different than where [the Say Yes to Education] board thought we were headed,” according to Gene Chasin of Say Yes.

Two faculty members of the University of Pittsburgh penned an op-ed piece in the Post-Gazette that asked for a focus on state funding for higher education, instead of hand-wringing about recent changes to the Pittsburgh Promise. Lindsay Page and Jennifer Iriti wrote that the purchasing power of the Promise will decline in the face of a lack of support of higher education in the state. “As a community, we should celebrate and grow the gift of The Promise, but we also should seek to protect that gift by pushing Harrisburg to reinvest in public higher education,” the piece concluded. “Without such reinvestment, continued increases in the costs of higher education faced by families will do more to hinder access to the promise and opportunity of higher education than the recent scaling back of The Pittsburgh Promise.”

Is Promise Coming To A New Southern City?

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By late summer there will be at least one new Promise program to be added to the Cities of Promise, but exactly where it will be is yet to be determined.

According to the Greensboro News-Record in North Carolina, the “leading contender” is its own Guilford County. That newspaper reported last week that Say Yes to Education — which has city-wide programs in Syracuse and Buffalo — is poised to become the organization’s first program outside the Northeast.

Wrote Marquita Brown of the News-Record:

Say Yes has considered applications from more than two dozen school systems and municipalities, Gene Chasin, the chief operating officer of Say Yes to Education, said through a spokesman.

The organization still is considering several of those school systems, Chasin said.

While evaluating communities, Say Yes is weighing such factors as the strength of local leadership, “the openness of local partners to working together, and the commitment of the local school district to its students graduating high school — and doing so college-ready,” Chasin said.

While Say Yes would provide about $15 million in support, local partners — in this case Guilford County Schools, the Guilford Education Alliance, the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro and the High Point Community Foundation — would be responsible to raise funds to establish an endowment for college tuition scholarships.

“The Class of 2016 could be the first class to receive these opportunities,” said Maurice “Mo” Green, the superintendent of Guilford County Schools. To learn more about the positive measures coming out of Guilford Schools, please click here.


The photo above is a monument to the Greensboro Four, who generated attention to segregated conditions in the South with a 1960 lunch counter sit-in. The statue — which sits on the campus of North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro — was dedicated in 2002.