The Kalamazoo Promise scholarship program was announced in November 2005 and provides four years of tuition and fees at any public college or university in Michigan for students who have attended Kalamazoo Public Schools. The Kalamazoo Promise is unique in its scope and basis. While most other scholarship programs are based on merit or need, the Kalamazoo Promise is based only on location. The program seeks to remove the financial barriers to enrolling in college for those students who have attended Kalamazoo schools and lived within its boundaries for at least the four years of high school.
Since all students are eligible for the reimbursement of tuition and fees regardless of financial means, the program also seeks to transform the school district by focusing on ensuring that all students are prepared for a postsecondary education. With backing from the city's educators, politicians, and community leaders, the Kalamazoo Promise is positioned to create widespread educational and economic reform in Kalamazoo. The direct contribution of the scholarship program lowers the cost of postsecondary education, thereby increasing incentives for high school graduation, college attendance, and college completion. Among its broader outcomes, it is anticipated that this program will lead to a more educated workforce, higher overall earnings for graduates, greater disposable income for local families, and improvements in the local economy and housing market.
In addition to the impact the Kalamazoo Promise is expected to have on education, it is also viewed as an impetus for regional economic development. Economic experts hope that the scholarship will entice more middle class families, who would otherwise sacrifice income to save for college tuition, to stay in or move to the area. The housing slump seen in other parts of the Midwest has not had the same effect in Kalamazoo, due to the influx of new inhabitants. Local business, public relations, and real estate experts use the Promise as a tool to attract businesses to relocate and invest in Kalamazoo. As that happens, the potential increase in available jobs would also serve to attract new residents to the area, but more importantly it would provide income for existing residents as well. Even surrounding areas that would not benefit directly from the scholarships are foreseeing economic growth in commerce and entertainment industries.
The Kalamazoo Promise has received accolades from local and state government officials. The plan has also received wide media attention, with newspapers from around the nation covering the scholarship program. Each news report introduces new testimonials from parents and students directly affected by the Promise. Individuals tell heartwarming stories of how college was a long-hoped-for goal that finances rendered unattainable; now, the Kalamazoo Promise has changed their lives' course. Many other cities have replicated the scholarship, or have undertaken feasibility studies, indicating the growth of a movement toward universal K-16 education. Educators, politicians, journalists, and families have all praised the initiative's focus on education and the new opportunities that have been given to Kalamazoo's students. For more information about the Kalamazoo Promise, please visit the scholarship's website.