More Choices for Kalamazoo Promise Students

Posted on June 10, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Today the Kalamazoo Promise announced the most important change to its the program in its nine-year history, substantially broadening the choices that Promise-eligible Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS) students have when it comes to college attendance. Beginning with the Class of 2015, Kalamazoo Promise funding can be used to cover tuition and fees at the fifteen liberal arts colleges that are part of the Michigan Colleges Alliance. The Kalamazoo Promise will fund Promise-eligible students at the level of the average undergraduate tuition and fees at the University of Michigan’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; the MCA member institution will cover any difference between that tuition and fees amount and the amount of its own yearly tuition and fees.

The biggest impact of this change is to dramatically expand the choices of Promise-eligible students about where to use their scholarship. (With this announcement, the list of eligible institutions has grown from 43 to 58 schools throughout Michigan.) Small liberal arts colleges offer a different experience than large public universities enabling a better fit for some students; in addition, more than half of the newly eligible institutions have a religious affiliation, adding another dimension of choice. KPS graduates will no longer have to give up their Promise funding to pursue the path of liberal arts education in a small, residential setting, and lower-income graduates of KPS will have the same opportunities to access a private college as their middle- and upper-income peers.

The change is in keeping with the innovation and adaptation shown by the Kalamazoo Promise donors since the program was announced in 2005. Program changes introduced along the way – extending the time frame for use of the scholarship to 10 years, allowing students to attend Kalamazoo Valley Community College on a part-time basis, and including apprenticeship programs as an eligible use of Promise funding — have made it possible for more students to use their Promise funding in more flexible ways. This announcement adds a new element of flexibility to the many choices already enjoyed by Promise-eligible students and suggests that the Promise donors have embraced the notion of continuous improvement in the design of their scholarship program. It also indicates that the emergence of a national Promise movement that includes more than 30 programs to date has led to the development of new models that are now influencing decisions being made in Kalamazoo.

The announcement is also an example of the powerful effect the Kalamazoo Promise has had as a catalyst in many spheres. The expansion to include private colleges represents a true partnership, in which the colleges themselves will be contributing significant financial resources to support attendance by KPS graduates. Just as the Kalamazoo Promise donors through their gift have leveraged change in the K-12 school district and broader Kalamazoo community, this program change shows that their gift has also leveraged new resources from a new set of actors at the state level – resources that go directly toward enabling KPS students to have maximum choice in fulfilling their higher education goals.


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