In the world of place-based scholarships, the big bang occurred on Nov. 10, 2005, when the Kalamazoo Promise was unveiled at a Kalamazoo Board of Education meeting. Media attention soon followed as the program has been featured by the major networks and in outlets like the New York Times. The program and the attention it received spawned a variety of followers, loosely knitted together under PromiseNet. This November, the Kalamazoo Promise is hosting that conference, which will also celebrate the program’s 10th anniversary.
The Promise was a pledge from 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. Since the ‘big bang,’ Kalamazoo has moved into the nation’s top 25 cities as rated by the education attainment of the population. The school district has grown, test scores have improved and a larger percentage of high-school grads are going to college.
In 2014, Kalamazoo Promise announced an agreement with several of Michigan’s private colleges to provide partnership funding of city students.
The college-going culture in Kalamazoo has resulted in other programming from external sources. As an example, nearly 200 men who work for Kalamazoo Public Schools recently agreed to serve as mentors in an effort to improve outcomes for males students, particularly those who are African-American.