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Kalamazoo Promise Extends Scholarships to Students at Private Colleges

The Kalamazoo Promise scholarship program will now cover students' tuition at private liberal arts colleges and universities in Michigan—not just public institutions.

The announcement was made June 10 by the Kalamazoo Promise and the Michigan College Alliance, which is comprised of 15 independent institutions in the state. Beginning in the fall of 2015, the MCA schools have pledged to cover the difference in cost of attending a public college for the scholars.

Established in 2006, the Kalamazoo Promise was one of the first programs of its kind, promising students in kindergarten that once they graduate from high school, the cost of tuition at in-state public colleges and universities would be covered. The amount of the scholarship depends on how long the student has been a resident of the 13,000-student Kalamazoo school district. The offer can be used for up to 10 years after they graduate, and nearly 85 percent of Kalamazoo graduates (two-thirds of whom meet federal poverty guidelines) have taken advantage of it. The program is funded by a small group of anonymous private donors.

"This opportunity for Promise Scholars is a true measure of access and equity," said Janice Brown, a board member for the Kalamazoo Promise in a press release. "The addition of these 15 institutions will increase then umber of Promise eligible schools to 58 schools throughout Michigan." (Click here for a list of the new private colleges added to the Kalamazoo Promise.)

Research shows college graduation rates are higher at private, nonprofit universities than public institutions.

Across the country, about two dozen programs akin to the Kalamazoo Promise are in operation. The models vary, with some covering only public colleges, while others include private institutions as well. A few, such as Kalamazoo, are universal where all high school graduates are given the scholarship, but a growing number, such as the Indiana 21st Century Scholars program, are attaching merit requirements to qualify. Programs may set a cap for awards or be set up as "last-dollar" scholarships filling in the difference after other grants and scholarships are given.
For more on trends with scholarship programs and financial incentives, see my recent article, "Schools Prod Students Toward Diplomas With Tuition and Cash," from the latest Diplomas Count report from Education Week.
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