285 Philadelphia Schools’ Students Awarded $800,000 in Scholarships

Written by Patricia Hawke for Schools K-12

The Philadelphia Education Fund has been in operation for 20 years. A nonprofit organization, the Fund partners with school districts (including the Philadelphia schools), other nonprofit organizations, businesses and individuals to provide scholarships for students in the Philadelphia schools system. Its purpose is to initiate and implement innovative educational programs, of which they have several. They work to improve the quality of teachers in the Philadelphia schools, conduct educational research, and engage the community in school reform. The Fund is one of the largest of 86 education funds that are affiliated with the national Public Education Network.

One of the programs that are sponsored by the Fund is the Philadelphia Scholars Program that awards Last Dollar Scholarships to Philadelphia schools students. In June 2006, they awarded $800,000 in scholarships to 285 schools students.

Over the last 16 years, the Fund has awarded more than $5 million to students, who attend 15 high schools of the Philadelphia schools system — many of these youth were the first in their families to attend college.  Scholarships range from $200 to $4,000, helping to fill the gap between a student’s financial aid package and actual college costs. Scholarships cover tuition, fees, books and transportation. They are renewable for a maximum of six years for students attending accredited, degree-granting colleges and universities across the nation.

Scholarship funding is from Philadelphia donors (many of which are the city’s most prominent philanthropists in the financial industry), but includes hundreds of individuals, businesses, and organizations. The most active donor is John C. Bogle, chairman of the National Constitution Center and former chairman and founder of the Vanguard Group. Besides wanting to make college a reality for Philadelphia schools students, Bogle hopes that these same children will one day invest in Philadelphia’s next generation.

Once such group, which raises funds for the Last Dollar Scholarship program, is the Scholars Advisory Committee. To date, they have raised $16 million.  A. Morris Williams, Jr. chairs the committee, is the president of Williams and Company, and was formerly an executive of Morgan Stanley. He and John Neff, a committee member and former managing partner of Wellington Management Company, are the two driving forces behind the Philadelphia Scholars Program.  Together, they provided the seed money for the program’s launch.

Williams wants to help the Philadelphia schools students reach their goals, hoping to inspire others to support higher education in Philadelphia. Neff wants to give something back to the community that has been so good to him, and sees supporting education as a way to give students an opportunity for a better life.

Most investors in the scholarship program for Philadelphia schools students recognize the something must be done to help the city’s youth succeed. Without the opportunity of a higher education for today’s students, Philadelphia will be left wanting for an educated workforce in the future. The donors’ generosity helps the Philadelphia schools students have a better future, as well as helping the city succeed tomorrow.