The Kalamazoo Promise is a pledge by a group of anonymous donors to pay up to 100 percent of tuition at any of Michigan's state colleges or universities for graduates of the public high schools of Kalamazoo, Michigan. To receive the minimum 65% benefit, students must have lived within the Kalamazoo School District, attended public high school there for four years, and graduated. To receive a full scholarship, students must have attended Kalamazoo public schools since kindergarten.
The program, unveiled at a November 10, 2005, Kalamazoo Board of Education meeting, is also viewed as an economic development tool for Kalamazoo. Since the Kalamazoo Promise was announced, enrollment in the school district has grown by 16%, test scores have improved, and a greater proportion of high-school graduates are attending college. In 2010 alone, the Kalamazoo Public School district saw enrollment rise 3% to 12,409.
Research published by the Upjohn Institute in 2015 shows that the Kalamazoo Promise significantly increases college enrollment, college credits attempted, and credential attainment, and the researchers conclude that such scholarships can both increase educational attainment and provide net economic benefits.
Tuition checks began to be distributed in 2006. As of summer 2010, the program had paid out $18 million in tuition for about 2,000 high school graduates of Kalamazoo's two high schools and three alternative schools, according to executive administrator Robert Jorth. Most of the money has gone to the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Western Michigan University. Promise-funded students have enrolled in all but one of Michigan's 15 state universities. As of October 2010, a total of 60 Promise-funded students had obtained bachelor's degrees.
|Length of attendance||Proportion of full tuition|
El Dorado, Arkansas; Denver, Colorado; Detroit, Michigan; New Haven, Connecticut; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are just a handful of the nearly two dozen communities that have similar "Promise" programs. These communities have joined PromiseNet, a network of communities that run or plan similar place-based scholarship programs. The PromiseNet 2013 Conference was meant to foster such programs.
Success Rate of Students
As of 2011 half of the students who have started programs have dropped out before finishing degrees or certificates. In response to this executive director of The Promise Janice Brown has said, "stage II of The Promise is improving the preparation and support for low-income and first-generation college students who are more likely to start at community college and more likely to drop out because they are academically unprepared and/or because they lack the support system that middle-class and affluent college students take for granted". Yet as Ted C. Fishman notes in a New York Times Magazine piece, the Kalamzoo Promise "stokes hometown pride, prods citizens to engage and pulls businesses and their leaders into the public sphere." He also points out that "High-school test scores in Kalamazoo have improved four years in a row. A higher percentage of African-American girls graduate from the district than they do in the rest of the state, and 85 percent of those go on to college. Overall, more than 90 percent of Kalamazoo’s graduates today go on to higher education. Six in 10 go to Western Michigan University or Kalamazoo Valley Community College. And over time, a greater number of students are landing at the more selective University of Michigan and Michigan State." Additional media reports substantiate these statistics.
- Kalamazoo Gazette Editorial Board (2010-10-12). "Editorial: The good of The Promise extends far beyond Kalamazoo". Kalamazoo Gazette. Retrieved 2010-10-12.
- The Power of a Promise: Education and Economic Renewal in Kalamazoo, published in 2009 by the W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research
- "The Effects of the Kalamazoo Promise Scholarship on College Enrollment, Persistence, and Completion"
- Detroit College Promise
- "Public School Kids Get A College "Promise", New Haven independent, Nov. 9, 2010
- "Promise-type Scholarship Programs"
- "PromiseNet 2013"
- Mack, Julie (2011-11-28). "The Kalamazoo Promise scholarship yields successes, challenges after 6 years". MLive. Retrieved 2012-09-15.
- Fishman, Ted C. (2012-09-13). "Why These Kids Get a Free Ride to College". New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 2014-01-20.
- Yang, John (2013-06-13). "Fueled by a promise, Michigan students dream big". NBC News with Brian Williams. Retrieved 2014-01-20.
- Mangla, Ismat Sarah (2013-11-15). "The city where students go to college for free". Al Jazeera America. Retrieved 2014-01-20.