Philly will only go ‘2College’ with area support

Mayor Nutter’s implementation of the “PhillyGoes2College” office will set up scholarships that will give graduating Philadelphia School District students something tangible to strive for.

Mayor Nutter’s implementation of the “PhillyGoes2College” office will set up scholarships that will give graduating Philadelphia School District students something tangible to strive for.

During a December 2009 episode of The Office, Michael Scott – the somewhat more than offbeat co-manager of a fictitious Scranton-based paper office – is faced with a dilemma: Ten years ago, he promised a group of 15 underprivileged high school students he would pay for their college tuitions if they graduated high school.

At the start of 2010, Mayor Michael Nutter continued his resolution to double the percentage of Philadelphians who have college degrees by introducing a new city office: “PhillyGoes2College.”

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the office will “seek from area universities up to 100 new scholarships for city students” to aid the disappointing yet improving statistics: In the Philadelphia School District, “four of every 10 students still fail to graduate [high school] in six years.”

Of course, Scott cannot hold up his end of the bargain – he offers laptop batteries for unpurchased laptops instead – but his assistant points out the silver lining: While Scott did lie, 90 percent of the students – dubbed “Scott’s Tots” – were on track to graduate, 45 percent more than the rest of the fake high school.

“If you hadn’t made that promise,” Scott’s receptionist Erin says, “a lot of them would have dropped out.”

While no one is promising each student in the Philadelphia School District funding for higher education, it is imperative that more colleges and universities in the city answer to Nutter’s call, even if some, like Temple, have already begun scholarship programs for Philadelphia School District graduates.

Yes, The Office is fake, and no, no one should create empty promises to Philadelphia high school students, but the concept from the awkward NBC comedy is real. If hard-working students – the type that should move on to a college or a university, regardless of their hometown – are assured there is a way to afford the five-figure price tags attached to most schools, the idea of attending a higher-learning institution won’t be an unattainable dream. It will be an achievable reality.

Though a Bachelor’s degree seems it is slowly becoming the equivalent of a high school diploma, attending college is still not commonplace.

For the ZIP code 19121, which surrounds Main Campus, the percentage of high school graduates within the population stands at 54.9 percent, only 4.4 percent of which hold a Bachelor’s degree or higher, as reported by the U.S. Census 2000. With a new census waiting in the wings a decade later, it is doubtful the numbers have changed that drastically. Attending a college or university has only gotten more expensive throughout the decade.

Ray Betzner, Temple’s assistant vice president of communications, said the university is currently not in talks to create more scholarships aimed toward Philadelphia School District graduates under “PhillyGoes2College.” However, Temple was the first Philadelphia-area university to do so since Nutter came into office, Betzner said.

The current academic year is the first for the school’s Temple University Philadelphia School District Scholarship, which was announced in March 2008. The scholarship provides four worthy Philadelphia high school students full undergraduate tuition and shows “special consideration” to students from the communities surrounding Main Campus and Temple’s Health Sciences Center, including the 19121 ZIP code along with seven others representing North Philadelphia.

Other area universities, such as the University of Pennsylvania and LaSalle University, already have programs in place for Philadelphia School District students. With money tight everywhere, it is likely the “PhillyGoes2College office” will not see many new full scholarships, but area colleges and universities should work to create at least one new partial scholarship each while encouraging students to volunteer their time as mentors for students who need help writing college essays, another function of the office.
Even if the partial scholarships are only enough to pay for books, it will give Philadelphia School District students one less thing to worry about when it comes to applying to colleges.

And, if politicians who have campaigned to create this office do not encourage higher learning institutions to step up to the plate, they might as well be a bunch of lying Michael Scotts – except in this instance, it won’t be funny.

Ashley Nguyen can be reached at

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