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Help keep our future an educated one

Help spread the word about the Temple Promise, summer programs for high school students, and Saturday College. Let Temple know, especially if you or someone you know has ties to the school, that Saturday College should be expanded and offered every fall, spring, and summer.

While you’re at it, encourage all Philadelphia-area colleges and universities to partner with K-12 schools.

And remember, resist the negativity lately assigned to universities, but also hold them accountable.


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Philly Universities Must Invest In Young Students

A longtime university president on why all local institutions should emulate Temple's Saturday College

Philly Universities Must Invest In Young Students

A longtime university president on why all local institutions should emulate Temple's Saturday College

As it searches for its next president, Temple University is at a pivotal moment. Philadelphia’s publicly supported university can select the road of superficiality by chasing status in U.S. News and World Report. Or Temple can take the harder path of working with K-12 schools to prepare young Philadelphia citizens for a rigorous and transformative university education.

This March, Temple launched Saturday College to introduce Philadelphia middle school students to the excitement of participating in research projects. Once a month a dozen sixth, seventh, and eighth graders spend half their weekend on Temple’s Ambler campus, working with Temple researchers on how solar panels affect seed growth.

These tweens and young teens are learning lessons beyond botany. They are experiencing the power of curiosity, realizing university study is about much more than acquiring factual knowledge. As they observe seeds and solar panels, these kids are, in an essential way, becoming college students long before they matriculate.

Saturday College is free and open to all middle school students who live in Philadelphia. Although enrollment for the spring is closed, I recommend inundating Temple with applications for their summer camping experiences and B4USoar, a program offering Philadelphia high school students attendance free of charge in college classes.

Temple’s middle school and high school programs also prepare Philadelphia students to take full advantage of the Temple Promise, Temple’s offer of free tuition and fees to low-income Philadelphia residents.

Temple faculty leaders are encouraging administrators to invest in student success. They are not opposed to enrolling a wider population of students, but, as chemistry professor Steve Newman says in the Inquirer, “That requires faculty hiring. That requires academic adviser hiring. That requires thinking through the curriculum.”

That also requires minimizing the need for remediation by partnering with K-12 schools in preparing students for college-level work.

More Philadelphia university programs should help Philadelphia students qualify for college admission

Temple is paving the way for every Philadelphia university and college to fulfill its obligation in lieu of property taxes. It’s expensive to offer Philadelphia middle schoolers a free pathway to college attendance. It costs a lot to cover tuition and fees for low-income Philadelphians. But there is no better use of university funds. Many Philadelphia K-12 students are the first in their families to aspire to college. Programs like Saturday College inculcate self-worth and a commitment to overcoming obstacles. If large numbers of K-12 students could spend their Saturdays exercising their curiosity, we would have much less need for remediation. Motivated students are successful students.

Temple must do much more, but they can’t do it alone. Penn has the means to do major, exemplary programs. Penn, Temple, Drexel and other universities should think big. They should build on existing, ad hoc programs like Penn’s Summer Discovery, which does offer limited scholarship opportunities.

Although low-income Philadelphia students might be eligible for financial aid for this program and others sponsored by local universities, there’s nothing like advertising something as “free” to get families’ attention. These opportunities are also too limited.

We need reimagined, comprehensive, cooperative programs. Local universities should partner with the Philadelphia School District, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on a strategic plan for making every Philadelphia student 100 percent college bound.

By saying that, I am not undermining the importance of vocational education. But it does not have to be either/or. I’m impressed with Mastery Charter Schools’ $20 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies and partnership with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to revamp Mastery Hardy Williams High School as a training ground for future medical assistants, information technology workers, and hospital administrators. Once the program begins, Mastery Hardy Williams students will also take the basic coursework to make further study in college a possibility for them.

Hands-on apprentice experiences may actually serve as motivation for academic study. For those who continue their education in college, the salaries they will make in the medical fields they learned in high school will keep them out of debt. Some of these students will decide to be nurses, physical therapists or doctors. Or, they may decide to keep their technical jobs and opt for life-enhancing further education for its own sake.

Philadelphia colleges and universities can enhance and expand the generosity of foundations by partnering with Philadelphia K-12 schools on projects like this.

Saturday College and the Temple Promise are the best defense against the public’s loss of faith in universities

In a report entitled Trusteeship for the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, Paul Tough reports, “Public opinion regarding higher education has grown more negative in the years since 2015. That downturn has been matched by a drop in undergraduate enrollment.” We can’t hide from the fact that the general public is losing faith in higher education. It’s legitimate to point to enemies and potential autocrats who would prefer an uneducated electorate. But universities must also look within.

Universities must invest in their communities, especially in K-12 education. Let’s hope that the next presidents of Temple and of Penn will see that investment as a top priority.

Things we can do

  • Help spread the word about the Temple Promise, summer programs for high school students, and Saturday College.
  • Urge Temple immediately to expand the Saturday College and offer it every fall, spring and summer.
  • Encourage all Philadelphia-area colleges and universities to partner with K-12 schools.
  • Resist the negativity lately assigned to universities, but also hold them accountable.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this post misstated that the application period for Penn’s Summer Discovery program had ended. It has not. 

Elaine Maimon, Ph.D., is an Advisor at the American Council on Education. She is the author of Leading Academic Change: Vision, Strategy, Transformation. Her long career in higher education has encompassed top executive positions at public universities as well as distinction as a scholar in rhetoric/composition. Her co-authored book, Writing In The Arts and Sciences, has been designated as a landmark text. She is a Distinguished Fellow of the Association for Writing Across the Curriculum. Follow @epmaimon on X.


Photo courtesy of Temple University Photography.

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