City program encourages higher education

“PhillyGoes2College,” a new program created by Mayor Nutter’s office, aims for financial aid for as many as 1,000 Philadelphians to attend colleges in the city.

“PhillyGoes2College,” a new program created by Mayor Nutter’s office, aims for financial aid for as many as 1,000 Philadelphians to attend colleges in the city.

Mayor Nutter’s office recently announced a new program to encourage the city’s universities to increase financial aid allocations for local students, hoping that as many as 1,000 Philadelphians will receive scholarship packages from the scores of universities and colleges throughout the city, including Temple.

The city is calling on the universities to provide the packages to current Philadelphia residents applying to, or enrolled in, their institutions. City Hall will not be funding any scholarships, leaving the schools to decide how the money is allocated.

Student Financial Services didn’t immediately return calls for comment on the new program, but 75 percent of Temple students receive local, state or federal loans, with the average principle amounting to just shy of $30,000, according to the 2009-2010 Temple Factbook available online.

The promotion drive is part of Nutter’s 2008 goal to double the percentage of college graduates in Philadelphia, which was at 18 percent as of the 2000 Census, notably lower than the statewide average of just less than 25 percent. Now, halfway through the administration’s first term, the city’s proportion has risen three points, to 21 percent.

Lori Schorr, the mayor’s chief education officer, said she is confident that higher graduation rates will make the city more attractive to employers moving into the city. Philadelphia businessman, multimillionaire and gubernatorial candidate Tom Knox has identified a well-educated and well-trained workforce as “the No. 1 consideration businesses make when considering to locate in a particular region.”

“We’re opening a new office, ‘PhillyGoes2College,’ where city employees will be available to answer questions about financial aid forms, college applications and SAT preparation,” Schorr said. The office, slated to be opened “early this year,” will be based in City Hall and is funded by third-party contributions. The office will run on a budget of approximately $200,000.

The administration realizes, however, that college preparation needs to begin early. Although schools in South Philadelphia have drawn media attention for alleged hate crimes against minority students, Schorr pointed to a 14 percent drop in the schools that the state has designated as the “most violent,” reflecting a broader downward trend in school crime.

“Students need to feel safe if they are going to be able to learn,” Shorr said.

City officials also hope to raise high school graduation levels, which average about 60 percent in Philadelphia public schools.

Don Hoegg can be reached at

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