Another sign that I graduated too soon.
September 13, 2012 6:34 PM   Subscribe

Kalamazoo Promise has come up in discussion a couple of times. The program, funded by anonymous donors, covers tuition and fees for all graduates of Kalamazoo public high schools.

From the New York Times article:

According to census data, 39 percent of Kalamazoo’s students are white, and 44 percent are African-American. One of every three students in the Kalamazoo district falls below the national poverty level. One in 12 is homeless. Many of them are the first in their families to finish high school; many come from single-parent homes. Some are young parents themselves: Kalamazoo has one of the highest pregnancy rates among black teenagers in the state.

Students can use the scholarship at state schools and community colleges throughout Michigan.
posted by Ghidorah (13 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
kalamazoo represent!
posted by rebent at 6:37 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the link.... Looks like my morning read.

the tl:dr take on the first browse was watching the faces of the kids on the "multimedia" link.. that just made me smile.
posted by HuronBob at 6:40 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Merging in some links from my (tardy) deleted post, per Jessamyn's suggestion...

Sorry, Ghidorah, didn't mean to step on your toes like that. (Serves me right -- I got complacent checking the topic thoroughly before staring the post, but proof carefully before posting? Pfft!)


Kalamazoo: among other things, the southwest Michigan town is a place where one formerly might've had a gal, or maybe it's something one can twang a rhythm on. Today, thanks to the anonymous donors behind the Kalamazoo Promise, it's also the city that pays for college for every graduating high school senior that went to school there for at least four years.

The New York Times' extended profile of the Kalamazoo Promise runs through a brief history of the city -- former home to the Checker Cab Company, Gibson Guitars (as noted by John Fogerty & co.), and some guy named Derek Jeter that, uh, gets some press in the local NY papers.

In more recent decades, after many of its foundation businesses (auto plants, pharmaceuticals, paper mills) folded or left town, rust belt decay set in. But (as outlined in the profile), the Promise appears to be driving a real community-wide effort to provide other educational and community resources.

The Promise hasn't been a panacea, but it has provided college tuition for several thousand students and inspired similar programs in a number of other cities.

Whether the program ultimately achieves the donors' long-term goal -- economic development for Kalamazoo as a whole -- remains to be seen, but there have been hopeful signs.

posted by theoddball at 7:37 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

No worries, oddball. I grew up there, and moved to the Chicago area in '94. I went to Norrix (so you'll never see Jeter in a post of mine) and it was not an ideal learning environment. The downtown area wasn't a place to hang out at night. When I went back to visit a couple years ago, I was surprised by how different the city is from when I was growing up. The downtown has come a long way, and the schools are improving. When I heard about this, I was stunned, and more than a bit jealous. I think it's fantastic, though, and I hope it helps the city come back.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:50 PM on September 13, 2012

Not to one-up or "me too," but as another data point see also the Pittsburgh Promise.
posted by mrettig at 7:54 PM on September 13, 2012

I think it is amazing that the donors have truly stayed anonymous. So many philanthropists in West Michigan just want their names all over things. That is what makes me think this isn't the same few prominent families who do give so much in this area.
posted by morganannie at 8:54 PM on September 13, 2012

Why would public high school students pay tuition?
posted by blue_beetle at 9:24 PM on September 13, 2012

college tuition
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 9:33 PM on September 13, 2012

Kalamazoo! I was there from middle school until I graduated from high school. It wasn't until I left that I developed a real appreciation for it. It combines homey, Midwestern friendliness with a good-sized streak of artsy liberalism (probably not in small part to the multiple colleges). The city is not too big and there's access to all sorts of wonderful natural areas nearby (the Kal-Haven Trail, the nationally-known Kalamazoo Nature Center) but it has the art and culture scene of much bigger cities. The downtown area is cute and walkable and the public library is gorgeous. I remember when the news of this scholarship fund first came out. It's pretty amazing. I miss that town.
posted by schroedinger at 9:51 PM on September 13, 2012

A great initiative and a well written article - however the takeaway for me was Kalamazoo's former nickname: Celery City.
posted by postagepaid at 10:17 PM on September 13, 2012

I grew up in Kalamazoo, graduated in the early 90's, moved away and swore I'd never return, considering the state of the city at that time- crappy schools, crumbling downtown, festering blah blah etc. I stayed true to my word until 1.)my son was born and 2.)I switched careers from the lucrative but soul-killing world of video game development to public librarianship, around the same time as the announcement of the Promise. My wife and I'd already been looking around the Midwest for places to relocate, and coincidentally a children's librarian position opened up at the library. The Promise definitely made us rethink K'zoo, especially considering the cost of living vs. Chicago (where we were living at the time). We swallowed our pride and moved back, and it's been a great decision.

Also, I gotta remember to never, ever read the comments on any news story, ever.

the public library is gorgeous

Thanks, we think so too. :)
posted by 40 Watt at 11:09 AM on September 14, 2012

Visited my old college roommate about a month ago. He's been teaching in the K'zoo schools for 15 years or so. Part of my visit with him was learning about the Kalamazoo Promise. I'd heard a bit about it but didn't know much. I have to say I'm a bit envious of him now, knowing that his kids are going to get essentially free tuition to any MI State University. Makes me wonder if I should start looking for IT jobs in the K'zoo school system...

(Also, 40 Watt, maybe you know his wife, Mary, who works in a K'zoo library...)
posted by at 3:18 PM on September 14, 2012

It's such a lovely story, but as a non-American, I gotta say it really burns me up that American kids have to rely on charity to go to university. Such a bullshit. It should be a right.

I might have paid for my degree in the form of a loan, but it was a) heavily subsidised, and b) a debt open to anyone qualified to get it, c) with interest indexed to inflation, and d) repayments that wouldn't kick in, at all, until I earned over 35k in a year.
posted by smoke at 5:06 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

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