The One Program that Makes Kalamazoo a Better Place

Called the “Kalamazoo Promise,” it is a program that lives up to its promise by providing an amazing gift of up to 100 percent paid college tuition to all who attend Kalamazoo Public Schools.
The greater Kalamazoo community came together in Fall 2005 in hopes of becoming a world leader in education by investing in the educational system of Kalamazoo through anonymous donations. Today, this program has become a frontrunner nationwide, being recognized as “the most inclusive, most generous scholarship program in America” by The New York Times Magazine and “one of the nation’s most generous scholarship programs” featured on the NBC Nightly News’ Making a Difference series. The Promise is truly making a difference not only by strengthening the human capital and the educational system, but also acting as a catalyst for Kalamazoo’s development and economic growth throughout – attracting new residents and businesses into the community through value-added incentives.
The Promise has already made a significant impact in the local community, from the ground up. NBC Nightly News highlights some of KPS big dreamers and their inspiration to a guaranteed post-educational future. “It helped my grades, how I acted around people because I knew that I was going to have a future,” quoted Jade Hubbard, a student planning to pursue college in science and technology. Even third graders were beaming with hope and inspiration as they shared their ambitions with NBC’s John Yang. With test scores, graduation rates, and enrollment in advanced placement courses all rising, it is a sure sign that education is strengthening significantly because of the Promise.
The Kalamazoo Promise has exceeded its expectation thus far by providing over $45 million in tuition for 2,800 students and counting, in addition to becoming a “trend setter” across the nation for many other Promise-type programs. Setting this program apart from other scholarship funding programs are five defining features focused by the W.E. Upjohn Institute: universality, flexibility, generosity, perpetuity, and anonymity. In short, we can provide you with a quick insight as to why these five features justify the Promise’s bottom line.
Let’s address the “who, where, and what” about the Promise playing such a powerful role in economic transformation by first addressing “who” is eligible to qualify for free tuition. Kalamazoo Public School graduates who attend K-12 receive 100 percent fully funded college tuition and fees, while graduates who attend since ninth grade are gifted 65 percent coverage. The other “who” we mention remain anonymous. The group of donors that have pledged to invest in the scholarship program since 2005 have and will always remain anonymous. These generous donors guaranteed to continue this scholarship program in perpetuity.
That leaves us with addressing “where” you can apply your tuition and “what” specifications and advantages can be taken. The Promise works towards promoting enrollment statewide by paying up to full tuition for a number of eligible colleges, universities, and trade schools in the State of Michigan. In light of choosing the best fit institution for their needs, students have the flexibility to access their Promise funding anytime within ten years of graduation, rest assured that a waiting list may compromise their plans. It also provides plenty of time for those to truly take to heart the career path they want to pursue with regards to the best-fit Michigan school. Students may also benefit through other sources of funding on top of the Promise funding, being that this unique scholarship is a “first-dollar” scholarship – awarded prior to other financial aid.
Surely the Promise has resulted in a better-educated community by rectifying enrollment levels for KPS and increasing college-goers statewide, but it is now transforming the Kalamazoo metropolitan area economically. With this program fueling a college-going community, residents and employees’ children have potential access to a free college education while businesses have potential access to top recruits. In turn, the greater Kalamazoo community will continue to flourish in perpetuity. In the limelight, Kalamazoo is becoming more attractive to individuals and organizations looking to capitalize on the advantages of the program, especially those with children, by locating or relocating their businesses and employees’ families to Kalamazoo.