The Kalamazoo Promise Scholarship

February 28, 2014

In 2005, Kalamazoo, Michigan, announced the Kalamazoo Promise Scholarship, a college scholarship for any graduate from the Kalamazoo public school system that enrolls in a public college or university in the state of Michigan. Scholarship funding, paid for by anonymous donors, ranges from 65 percent to 100 percent of tuition (based on the number of years the student was in the school system), and retaining the scholarship requires only a 2.0 grade point average (GPA), say Timothy J. Bartik and Marta Lachowska, economists at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.

The Kalamazoo school district has traditionally had a large number of low-income and minority students.

  • Between 80 percent and 90 percent of Kalamazoo high school graduates have become eligible for the Promise scholarship, and 82 percent to 85 percent of those students have taken advantage of it at some point in time.
  • For the average student, the total four-year value of the scholarship ranges from $18,000 to $27,000.

Bartik and Lachowska set out to analyze the impact of the scholarship on high school students -- would they change their behavior, knowing that graduating high school would make them eligible for a scholarship up to 100 percent of tuition? While unable to draw precise conclusions, the authors did find that the Promise scholarship led to a reduction in student behavior issues and had a large positive impact on African American students' GPAs.

  • The Promise scholarship decreased the number of days that a student was suspended by 1.3 days in the second year after the announcement and 1.8 days in the third year.
  • Eligible students also earned higher grades and spent less time in detention, though the results were not statistically significant.
  • For African Americans, their GPAs increased dramatically after the announcement of the scholarship, rising by 0.2 points in the first year after the program was established, by 0.3 points the second year, and by 0.7 points the third year.
  • Moreover, African American students saw a two-day decrease in suspensions in the first year after the scholarship and a three-day decrease in the next year.

The findings suggest that scholarships and other similar programs could be aided by helping students understand more about how their behavior in high school impacts their future. By helping students understand that link, these types of programs could be even more successful.

Source: Timothy J. Bartik and Marta Lachowska, "The Kalamazoo Promise Scholarship," Education Next, Spring 2014.

 

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