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Free college for kzoo kids.
November 12, 2005 7:25 AM   Subscribe

City full of kids gets free college. 6 anonymous donors cover the college bill for any and all graduates of Kalamazoo Public Schools. Including those who immigrate. Neighboring white-collar town says, "No thanks."
posted by Baby_Balrog (42 comments total)

 
This is simply incredible. Everyone in Kalamazoo is agog - This is a school district that has faced incredible hardship in the last twenty years. Nearby Portage - white flight mecca of the post-integration 1960s - is home to two blue ribbon schools. Maybe this will bring new people to town - maybe other towns will learn from the actions of this small group of philanthropists - maybe free (higher) public education will spread across the U.S. via the generous contributions of the wealthy.
10:1 the next comment starts with "maybe".
posted by Baby_Balrog at 7:25 AM on November 12, 2005


That 'no thanks' link doesn't exactly say 'no thanks'. It says Portage doesn't expect to see students migrating out of their district to the Kalmazoo district just for this. It's also pure conjecture - could still be a mass exodus.
posted by spicynuts at 7:34 AM on November 12, 2005


this is awesome - i applaud the donors and the schoolboard that worked with them to make it work.
posted by Marquis at 7:37 AM on November 12, 2005


Free education? Bloody communists. I suppose they'll soon be wanting pensions and healthcare too!
posted by cleardawn at 7:45 AM on November 12, 2005


It will be interesting to see what happens to real estate prices in Kalamazoo.

Presumably this will make homes more valuable, but on the other hand the people who would care most would be those who could least afford college and thus least afford to get into bidding wars over houses. So the lack of means of those who value the houses most highly may prevent prices from rising too much.

Of course, people who could well afford college could also decide that given the choice they would rather not pay for it themselves. Those people obviously could make the price of a house skyrocket. But who knows, many of those people may envision their kids going to college out of state.

Ah, but the scholarship is only for the next 12 graduating classes, so the bubble will deflate as the tuition-savings of buying a house declines.

Somebody needs to get an economic sociologist down there right away. This will be interesting.
posted by duck at 7:47 AM on November 12, 2005


This is truly fantastic. But to clarify the part about immigration:

Length of Attendance Benefit
K-12 ....................100%
1-12 .....................95%
2-12 .....................95%
3-12 .....................95%
4-12 .....................90%
5-12 .....................85%
6-12 .....................80%
7-12 .....................75%
8-12 .....................70%
9-12 .....................65%
10-12 ...................None
11-12 ...................None
12-12 ...................None

So, yes, it covers you if you immigrate, but not if you don't before high school.

But, that minor quibble aside, this is a fantastic thing for those donors to do. This, truly, is what the wealthy should be doing with their money.

Duck: according to how the endowment is structured, it wouldn't necessarily have to be just for the next 12 years. If handled properly and funded adequately, it could operate on a permanent basis. They have 12 years to earn interest before the last group's tuition is due. It should be doable.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:51 AM on November 12, 2005


Here is national coverage if you're interested in putting the pieces together. First reaction: wondering whether the return will match the investment.
posted by dgaicun at 7:53 AM on November 12, 2005


The entire state of Georgia has this already; it is called the HOPE scholarship.
posted by robbyrobs at 7:53 AM on November 12, 2005


I just looked at the Georgia program. It looks more like a regular scholarship program -- there are required GPAs, lists of the courses that must be taken in high school,
posted by duck at 8:00 AM on November 12, 2005


Wow! That is incredible. Bless those anonymous donors.
posted by LeeJay at 8:01 AM on November 12, 2005


The same student who used the construction "me and my mom..." also used the word magnificent?

*Head explodes*

Other than that, this is great news.
posted by emelenjr at 8:08 AM on November 12, 2005


I wish I were rich enough to be one of the anon donors.
posted by Hildegarde at 8:10 AM on November 12, 2005


Really cool -- this kind of reminds me of Geoffrey Canada's approach in Harlem -- rather than focusing on individuals, the idea is to provide the benefit for the entire community.
posted by footnote at 8:19 AM on November 12, 2005


Wow! My ex-girlfriend and her new daughter hit the jackpot on this one. Good for them if it lasts (and I hope it does).
posted by malaprohibita at 8:37 AM on November 12, 2005


This is a great idea. It reminds me of the program in Philomath, Oregon that used to provide instate tuition for it's high school grads. The program was cut in 2003 when the school became "too politically correct". It was later reinstated but with eligibility requirements.
posted by Staggering Jack at 9:11 AM on November 12, 2005


This is amazing. Next step: free higher education for everyone.
posted by Quartermass at 9:16 AM on November 12, 2005


This, truly, is what the wealthy should be doing with their money.

Covers 1% of the school-age population, of the state of Michigan.

Will cover around 12,000 total students, @$40k per student that's ~$500M.

Interesting experiment, but IMV charity is no way to run a railroad.

heh, if rents go up $200/mo landlords will claim the benefit entirely.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:21 AM on November 12, 2005


Which families/companies in and around Kzoo could afford to make this kind of donation? Get out your deerstalker caps and pipes and let's figure this out.
posted by goatdog at 9:29 AM on November 12, 2005


It's Oprah. I just know it. She's always promising to send kids to college.
posted by maxsparber at 9:41 AM on November 12, 2005


Which families/companies in and around Kzoo could afford to make this kind of donation? Get out your deerstalker caps and pipes and let's figure this out.

I grew up in Kalamazoo/Portage and as far as I can remember, among the 'old money' families were the Gilmores and the Upjohns.

BTW the characterization of Portage in the FPP isn't that accurate... It's whiter and wealthier than Kalamazoo overall, but that's not saying too much. Compare Portage to the Detroit suburbs and Portage ain't nothin'...
posted by crank at 9:57 AM on November 12, 2005


Ok, I admit it, it was me. no, wait, seriously!

Ok, would you believe... it was a grant from the Human Fund? (money for people)

No? oh nevermind...
posted by blue_beetle at 10:35 AM on November 12, 2005


I'm a little disappointed if this does only last 12 years, and not just because it would seem to ruin any prospect for long-term change in the area: also because it would be a silly way to spend that much money.

According to another article in the local rag (yeah I'm from there too), the expected cost per class per year is $3M, so the program will cost that much initially and ramp up to $12M/year when there are 4 years of students in college at once. Or, as the superindendant speculated, a whole bunch more if KPS enrollment spikes: maybe $24M per year.

Now, from what I've read, no one is discussing exactly how this is funded, like an endowment or annual donations or whatever, but if the donors have committed to 12 years and foreseen an enrollment spike, then they're collectively prepared to spend 3+6+9+12+8*24 = $222M, even assuming the "worst" (ie, highest enrollment) case (Heywood: where are your numbers from?). The thing is, you can double your money in 12 years at just 6% interest, or alternately throw off about $13M per year of interest (assuming the same rate) without ever depleting a lump-sum principal of that size.

Without quibbling about the details, a 6% APR seems entirely reasonable to me, rather low even for some group with $200M+ to throw around (hell, they could do better than that with a few thousand shares of Berkshire Hathaway). Which is just a long way to say, it seems very easy to capitalize this investment amount in such a way that you could keep the scholarship rolling in perpetuity -- or at least a major part of it. And I would hope that anyone with enough financial acumen to accumulate that kind of money in the first place would have the foresight to 1) actually capitalize the fund in this way, and 2) wait until it was properly capitalized to announce the program. Of course as it's a black box at this point, there's no way to be sure that's what's happened, but it just seems extraordinarily foolish to have done it another, less-permanent way.

Of course, maybe the 12-year window is just a CYA technique in case there are unexpected changes in enrollment or tuition or whatever. Let's hope so.
posted by rkent at 11:08 AM on November 12, 2005


The same student who used the construction "me and my mom..." also used the word magnificent?

I would be surprised if anyone of student years said "my mother and I".
posted by kenko at 11:31 AM on November 12, 2005


the people who would care most would be those who could least afford college

Is my prejudice showing, that the people who can least afford college overlaps too significantly with the people who don't value college, for the above to be true?

I imagine there will be a bunch of people who won't take advantage of this despite being born and raised there, because they measure the cost of college not only in tuition but in wages foregone (low that they might be).

I do hope this program encourages a number of kids who might not otherwise make an effort in high school, knowing that college is financially impossible for them, to now do so.
posted by Aknaton at 11:32 AM on November 12, 2005


Aknaton,
I wouldn't call it predjudice, however, I think you would find that those who can least afford college, in fact, do value college. They simply cannot afford it and assume they would never be able to afford it. After awhile, it simply ceases to even be on the radar of "things I concern myself with...like paying the light bill."
posted by Thorzdad at 12:50 PM on November 12, 2005


I grew up in Kalamazoo/Portage and as far as I can remember, among the 'old money' families were the Gilmores and the Upjohns.

Let's not forget the Strykers.

I grew up in Kalamazoo myself, and this is the first time I've really considered moving back. Hopefully, they'll do something to improve the schools a little bit... not that they were bad before, but they weren't the greatest either.
posted by 40 Watt at 12:51 PM on November 12, 2005


rkent: I was just going with:

12,000 total students and $10k per student per year for 4 years.

There's about 1000 students per class year, so their $3M/yr is estimating $3000/student/year. I'd guess the average free-ride is 75% or greater (6+ years in the district), so either they're not counting on people applying to Harvard or... dunno...
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:54 PM on November 12, 2005


so either they're not counting on people applying to Harvard or... dunno...

It only works for schools in Michigan.
posted by duck at 12:58 PM on November 12, 2005


I live in Kalamazoo, and people are pretty estatic about it. We've talked to a number of 'lower income' people, and they're quite excited about the opportunties it affords their kids. And for 'higher income' people like me--I'm much less likely to move *away* from Kalamazoo before my daughter (who's been attending Kalamazoo public schools here since 1st grade) graduates--nearly free tuition to the University of Michigan? Right now, that's worth almost $40K. It's attractive both to people who can't afford college as well as to those who can.

(Oh, and by the way? 'me and my X' in nominative position is 'obviously sound American' as Mencken wrote some 85 years ago: See his American Language).
posted by wfitzgerald at 1:29 PM on November 12, 2005


kalamazoo is an excellent little burg, particularly if you dig microbrew; this is wonderful and good publicity in general for kzoo
posted by AllesKlar at 1:32 PM on November 12, 2005


It only works for schools in Michigan.

And only public ones at that. And the only public school in Michigan that costs anywhere near $10K (in-state) is the U of M, which is like $9K or $9.4K or something, the rest are less. I think $3K per student per year might be underestimating a bit, but not everyone from KPS gets into the umich, many will also go to community college and stuff.

But I guess the bulk of my argument applies no matter what figure you go with: if the donors can give this much money to the community, they can (or at least should be able to) set it up in a non-exhausting way, too.
posted by rkent at 1:33 PM on November 12, 2005


Non-exhausting in that it creates loyalty in these future college graduates, as well as their parents. Seems it gives these kids "all the more reason" to want to return the favor to kzoo however possible.
posted by AllesKlar at 1:35 PM on November 12, 2005


kalamazoo is an excellent little burg, particularly if you dig microbrew...

To totally derail: true, but mostly just Bell's. Just tried a sampling of the Olde Peninsula brews recently, and left pretty unimpressed. Fortunately there are Kraftbraeu and Arcadia, though, to fill the weak spots in the Bell's lineup (like wheat beer... gotta admit Arcadia Whitsun beats the pants off Oberon).
posted by rkent at 1:39 PM on November 12, 2005


rkent writes "if the donors can give this much money to the community, they can (or at least should be able to) set it up in a non-exhausting way, too."

Maybe this is the result of investment, at some point you've got to start spending your earnings rather than reinvesting or what's the point.
posted by Mitheral at 1:55 PM on November 12, 2005


If you were significantly invested in the economy of Kalamazoo, a program like this would more than make sense. Between immigration and the newly disposable income (at least a few people are bound to sock away less for their kids' education if they know it's paid for), you could see significant appreciation in real estate prices and an overall boost in commerce. If these donors own real estate or businesses in Kalamazoo, they'll have a lot of capital coming their way- either from cashflows or increased borrowing capacity against their assets. And as rkent showed, they don't need to earn that great a return on that capital over the duration of a student's career in order to be able to pay their tuition without depleting the funds for future students. But if they do earn a decent return on that capital, perhaps even by flipping assets in Kalamazoo throughout the boom, they can collect a hefty haircut off of the profits and still save up enough to send kids to college and increase their capacity to do so.
posted by MonkeyMeat at 2:19 PM on November 12, 2005


heh, if rents go up $200/mo landlords will claim the benefit entirely.

Sad, but true.
posted by Kwantsar at 3:11 PM on November 12, 2005


I think it's a good idea, but it's very bad that the scholarship expires four years after graduation from high school. Which means that no students who choose to work for few years (many of whom would be among the most needy) can benefit from it. I didn't start university until I was 21, and it was an excellent choice - I appreciated my opportunity all the more because of my time away from school.
posted by jb at 3:56 PM on November 12, 2005


"...gotta admit Arcadia Whitsun beats the pants off Oberon."

BLASPHEMER!!!
posted by Baby_Balrog at 4:05 PM on November 12, 2005


As a WMU alumni, this is intriguing news. It still wouldn't make me move back there. NYC is a million times better...
posted by camworld at 8:59 PM on November 12, 2005


Will they pay for trade schools as well? The world needs plumbers and electricians as much as it need doctors and lawyers...perhaps more so.
posted by weirdoactor at 12:22 PM on November 14, 2005


Will they pay for trade schools as well? The world needs plumbers and electricians as much as it need doctors and lawyers...perhaps more so.
posted by weirdoactor at 2:22 PM CST on November 14 [!]


An excellent point, and one many people forget. Those trades earn healthy wages too.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:57 AM on November 15, 2005


Kalamazoo represent (I went to Western and parents live in Portage). This is amazing news! What a beautiful gift to a community that has struggled very hard after the takeover of Upjohn, the closing of the GM plant, and various other economic hits they've experienced in the last 15 years.

And it's all about the Bell's Cherry Stout.
posted by Sidthecat at 1:39 PM on November 15, 2005


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