Excellent NYT Magazine piece on the impact of The Kalamazoo Promise, an initiative by anonymous donors to pay the college tuition of every graduating senior in Kalamazoo. The Promise, which is intended by the donors to be an experiment in urban investment has had several amazing results in only a few years. High school test scores have improved continuously, and the promise of help with tuition has lead to families moving to and staying in Kalamazoo. The 2,450 new students has allowed the school district to hire 92 additional teachers. It’s not all rosy, and the Promise hasn’t solved every problem yet, but Kalamazoo seems to be headed in the right direction.
Under the terms of the program, students who start in the Kalamazoo school district as kindergartners receive enough money to cover their entire tuition to public in-state schools. Students who enter the district in later grades get less, based on a sliding scale; entering high-school freshmen, for example, get 65 percent of their tuition covered. (Those who move to Kalamazoo after that or who enroll in colleges that are private or located outside the state are not covered by the Promise.) To date, the Kalamazoo Promise has paid out $35 million for postsecondary study for 2,500 students. On average, about $4,200 is spent on each student per semester. Students are responsible for their own room and board.