In many ways, Philadelphia would seem to be the ideal place for students who want to go to college.
The city does not lack for programs and organizations dedicated toward helping young people reach this goal. Its mayor, Michael Nutter, has put renewed focus on the issue, setting goals to halve the high school dropout rate and double the percentage of adults who attain four-year college degrees. The region has one of the highest concentrations of colleges and universities in the nation.
As a high school principal working to get Philadelphia students into college, Kahlila Ames says her challenge is fundamental: "When you've got a population that may not be believers, how do you make them believe?"
Ames' students face major obstacles. They need good grades. They need money. They must navigate a long, confusing admissions process. They must manage countless family obligations and social distractions.
The first big hurdle in getting more Philadelphians on track to post-secondary academic success is to ensure that fewer students drop out before finishing high school. In recent years, the graduation rate has finally climbed above 60 percent in Philadelphia public schools.
But a bigger dropoff comes at the next step in the process.