Ledbetter and Dr. Edmondson smile as they meet Franco Harris at a The Pittsburgh Promise event.

Greater Allegheny campus student Jalen Ledbetter and Dr. Jacqueline Edmondson, chancellor and chief academic officer, get life advice from Chair Franco Harris at a The Pittsburgh Promise event on September 27, 2017 at the Energy Innovation Center in Pittsburgh. 

Image: Penn State

New Greater Allegheny grant makes living on campus easier

MCKEESPORT, Pa. -- “He told me, ‘Don’t think about problems, just power through,’” senior Jalen Ledbetter said with a smile.

This is solid life advice for anyone, but it meant so much more coming from Franco Harris, The Pittsburgh Promise chair.

At a presentation for The Pittsburgh Promise’s 2016 annual report, Penn State Greater Allegheny was presented as an inaugural partner of the Preferred College Partners initiative.

The partnership means that the Greater Allegheny campus will provide a $2,000 grant to eligible students for room and board beginning fall of 2018.

Students who live on campus are more likely to stay retained in higher education programs, according to the scholarship program’s executive director, Saleem Ghubril.

Jacqueline Edmondson, chancellor and chief academic officer, said staying on campus can help fully immerse students in an academic environment while giving more opportunities to develop relationships with peers, faculty and staff.

Ledbetter, a Promise Scholar from Pittsburgh Allderdice High School, has lived on campus through his college career due to both necessity and convenience.

“I didn’t have a car,” said Ledbetter. “I think it’s also a lot easier to get up for class and I just have more free time to do stuff I like [without having a commute].”

But financial help with room and board is just a piece of the transition into college. Another element of the partnership is to provide recipients with academic and transitional support.

“We know that targeted support services are essential to student success, especially among low-income and first-generation college students,” said Ghubril in a press release.

Edmondson said that recipients will receive support from the Center for Academic and Career Excellence, the John H. Gruskin Learning Center, and the new Comprehensive Studies Program that focuses on educational equity.

Textbook scholarships programs have already been introduced to alleviate financial strain. “ACE purchases textbooks for students, and this fall, thanks to our donors, we were able to provide a $50 voucher for all new Penn State students to use in the bookstore,” said Edmondson. 

All these programs and resources are paying off. Ghubril said that graduation rates among Promise Scholars are 12 percent higher than national averages.  

In the spring, Ledbetter will add to this graduation rate. “[Being a Promise Scholar] gave me more motivation,” said Ledbetter. “It helped me out a lot and eliminated stress around money. I would have had to work to pay tuition and take out loans.”