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In Kalamazoo, a Promise Boosts School Enrollment

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In Kalamazoo, a Promise Boosts School Enrollment

Education

In Kalamazoo, a Promise Boosts School Enrollment

In Kalamazoo, a Promise Boosts School Enrollment

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/6552216/6552236" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The Program's Rules

  • All students who graduate from Kalamazoo Public Schools, are residing in the district, and have been KPS students at least four continuous years are eligible for the scholarship.
  • To qualify, students must have graduated from a KPS high school; must be admitted to and enrolled in a public Michigan university or community college; make regular progress toward a degree or certification; maintain at least a 2.0 grade point average at the university. (If the GPA drops below 2.0 a student may be reinstated if he/she is able to bring their GPA back to at least a 2.0.); must complete a minimum of 12 credit hours per semester.
  • The program provides up to 4 years of tuition and mandatory fees.
  • Benefits are on a sliding scale, linked to the length of attendance in the Kalamazoo Public School system. (Those attending kindergarten through 12 grade receive 100 percent; those who only attend 10th through 12th grade don't qualify for the benefit.)

Source: Kalamazoo Public Schools

A bold, new experiment in southwestern Michigan is filling public-school classrooms and reshaping a community. The Kalamazoo Promise is an offer made by anonymous donors to help pay college tuition for high school seniors.

But there's a string attached: Students must live in Kalamazoo. It's a condition that is adding new life to the city. Kaomi Goetz of Michigan Radio reports.

Denise Singson and her children moved from Honolulu to Kalamazoo, where they live in a modest and tidy apartment. The 39-year-old single mother and Toronto native says she was looking for somewhere more affordable to live.

Singson's mother saw an article about The Kalamazoo Promise, an ambitious scholarship program announced nearly a year ago, and suggested the move to Kalamazoo.

Anonymous donors are offering to pay college tuition at any Michigan university or community college for four years. Recipients only need to graduate in good standing from Kalamazoo Public Schools and live within the district.

Singson says she couldn't believe such an offer existed.

"It seemed too good to be true," she says. "That people would put forth monies for the kids' education. That's why I had to look at this further and find out what exactly is this? This doesn't make sensel it's not something you come by very often."

The Promise is giving a significant economic boost to this medium-sized town. Kalamazoo has suffered the loss of thousands of manufacturing jobs and the recent downsizing of drug manufacturer Pfizer.

The Promise is also helping a struggling urban school district that has faced two decades of cuts and declining enrollment. This fall, the district's classrooms have surged by nearly 1,000 new students, a 10 percent jump.

The burst in enrollment has created more than 30 teaching positions in the school district.

Kalamazoo Promise administrator Robert Jorth says he gets calls daily from families interested in moving into the district. New students have come from 30 states and nearly 65 communities in Michigan, he says.

While local economists say it's too soon to chart the economic effect of the Promise, there are already positive signs. Local Realtors say home sales are up 6 percent this year and prices are up an average of 7 percent.