The Craig Fahle Show

The Successes and Challenges of the Kalamazoo Promise

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Photo credit: Matthew Trevethan, WDET

An expansive program to pay in-state college tuition for students who graduate from K-12 schools in Kalamazoo is in its eighth year. Von Washington Jr., executive director of community relations for the Kalamazoo Promise, says eliminating the concern of prolonged student debt makes a dramatic impact on a student's ability to succeed.

"If there's an opportunity for our students to go to school and come out debt free, we have to take advantage of that," says Washington. He says some people in surrounding communities are disappointed that city lines around Kalamazoo determine whether students get to participate in the program. Washington says it would be good to see the program expanded in other municipalities.

"We really do feel that the scholarship could benefit all communities in the area."

But expanding the program beyond Kalamazoo wouldn't be simple. The Kalamazoo Promise is funded by anonymous donors. The state of Michigan attempted a similar, less expansive program for students throughout the state. The Michigan Promise Scholarship began in 1999 and was eliminated during state budget negotiations in 2010. The Kalamazoo Promise was unveiled at a school board meeting in November 2005.

The New York Times Magazine profiled the program, students and faculty a couple years ago. You can read it here.

-- Laura Weber-Davis