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Nu CenterpieceEx-Mayor Ed Rendell resurrected an old debate last month when he called for city’s colleges and other nonprofits to step up to help the Philadelphia School District by contributing money in the form of PILOTS, or Payments in Lieu of Taxes.  These institutions are largely exempt from paying property taxes; one of the main ways Philadelphia raises money for the schools.

The institutions are not happy with the idea of paying taxes or giving PILOTS.  Local colleges argue that they generate hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs. They also state they provide vital services to the city and its residents, such as educating Philadelphia’s children.

We decided to do a reality check on that last claim.  Each year, Philadelphia’s public, private and Catholic schools graduate about 5,000 seniors who go on to college.  How many of them stay in the city and go to local schools?

The short answer is: not many. Overall, 13 percent of this year’s entering freshman classes at the 11 Philadelphia schools are from the city. Eighty-seven percent are from out of state, other parts of Pennsylvania or from overseas.

We need to put that 13 percent figure in context.  Some schools had a high percentage of Philadelphians enrolled, led by Holy Family University in the Northeast, where 57 percent of this year’s freshman class are from the city.

At the other end of the scale is St. Joseph’s University.  Only five percent of city enrollment_rail_300px-01residents are part of the freshman class of the Jesuit school on City Ave.

The rest lie somewhere in between, with two larger schools – the University of Pennsylvania (6%) and Drexel University (also 6%) — at the lowest end of the scale.

The topic is not one the schools are enthusiastic to talk about.  It took many calls and emails over a two-week period to extract the information.  One school – Chestnut Hill College – refused to give any data.

Among the schools, Temple – which had the largest class of entering freshmen – landed somewhere in the middle of the pack, with 18 percent of its incoming freshmen from Philadelphia.

Karin Mormando, director of admissions at Temple, said this year’s freshman class increased from last year’s and so did the number of Philly students.

Mormando attributes the increase to a successful scholarship program that the school launched in the fall of 2013, which offers aid from $3,000 to full tuition, and their branding campaign ‘Self Made, Philly Made, Temple Made,’ which she said, “resonated with Philly students. It meant something to Philly students.”

“That’s a definitive part of who we are,” Mormando said. “We clearly see a part of our mission as serving the city of Philadelphia.”

It helps that Temple has a significantly lower tuition for in-state students. For the 2013-2014 academic year the base tuition is $13,406 for Pennsylvania students and $23,432 for out-of-state students. And the school offers a 20/20 scholarship, begun in 2011, which promises 250 scholarships to Philadelphia students from the four zip codes surrounding Temple’s main campus in North Philadelphia.

Programs of this type exist at other local colleges. Penn, in partnership with the city offers a program for Philadelphia students, called the Mayor’s Scholarship Program, which offers generous financial aid. Drexel offers the Liberty Scholars Program, granting annually renewable scholarships covering all tuition and fees for 50 recent Philly high school graduates.

These programs aside, the overall numbers are these: there were 14,797 incoming freshmen at the school this fall; 1,967 were from Philadelphia.


A recent state Supreme Court ruling will make it easier for local governments to tax non-profits. Tom Ferrick writes about the case in his latest Publius.


Follow Julia Bergman on Twitter.