PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Getting high school age children into the college of their choice has become a big business.

Parents who can afford it readily plop down anywhere from $600 to $1500 for classes at places like Kaplan and the Princeton Review, and even more for private tutoring.

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All in hopes of significantly raising their child’s SAT score.

Local businessman Tom Dickson doesn’t think that’s fair to those families who don’t have the means.

“I don’t think it’s right, that students have to pay 15-hundred dollars or a lot of money that families can’t afford to improve their SAT scores,” Dickson says.

That’s why Dickson and a few friends established Neighbors in Need – a non-profit that offers SAT prep webinar courses online.

Shot and streamed at his East Liberty offices, students can interact with teacher and Harvard graduate Hoon Kim who guides them through 36 rigorous hours, over 19 sessions of math, English, and writing preparation — all for free.

On the other end are students like Theodore Jackson from Pittsburgh Public School’s Obama Academy.

“I think this will help me because there’s this really good writing college in New York I want to get into,” Jackson said.

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Theodore — who enjoys writing and hopes to study journalism at Syracuse if his SAT scores are high enough — is one of 65 students now taking the course on line.

His father, Theo, who can’t swing the money for a course offered by for-profit companies, calls this program a godsend.

“It’s a blessing it truly it. It begins the level the playing field,” he says.

Dickson has two goals in mind — the first is helping kids get into a school within their reach whether that be Robert Morris over a community college or Yale over Pitt.

He also wants to help families in need qualify for an academic scholarship or the financial aid that higher SAT score may bring.

“So those are our two drivers, and there is a lot of research and debate about what SAT scores mean. As a practical matter they mean a lot relative to those two goals.”

In the coming year Dickson would like to expand the program in the hopes of making it a national model, leveling the SAT playing field across the country.

For more information about Neighbors In Need click here.

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