Calvin partners with Kalamazoo Promise

The Kalamazoo Promise is giving greater opportunities in secondary education to Kalamazoo Public Schools graduates, and Calvin is now a part of this successful program.

From its inception in 2005, this full-tuition scholarship has provided hundreds of students every year with the possibility to study at the college level tuition-free, breaking cycles of low opportunity and leading to greater college attainment rates.

Until now, however, this opportunity was limited to those attending public universities and community colleges. The announcement this past spring to include the 15 colleges in the Michigan Colleges Alliance, a group of private colleges including Calvin, Hope, Aquinas and Hillsdale, has made it possible for students to attend private schools under the same initiative.

The grant provides up to 100% of tuition for students who have attended Kalamazoo Public Schools since kindergarten. The amount of support each student gets is based on a sliding percentage scale related to the number of years the student was enrolled in the school system.

Calvin’s tuition, as well as the average tuition for all of the Michigan private colleges in the alliance, is over $10,000 more than the average tuition of the public institutions currently funded by the Kalamazoo Promise. However, the price for students will stay stable should they select a private school.

To ensure this, students will receive government and institutional grants, such as merit scholarships and financial aid to cover the difference in price between the Promise grant and the actual price of tuition.

The Promise grant amount to private schools will be $14,080, based on the average tuition cost for the University of Michigan School of Literature, Arts and Sciences, the largest and most expensive public school in Michigan.

The scholarship initiative will begin with 2015 graduates, with students of the 2015-2016 Calvin incoming class being the first to take advantage of this opportunity.

Calvin and the other schools in the Michigan Colleges Alliance are excited at the opportunity to include a new group of students who bring a new demographic and perspective to the college, as many Kalamazoo Promise students are first-generation college students who previously had few chances at higher education.

“A central part of Calvin College’s strategy is to support key partnerships that advance the college’s mission,” president Michael LeRoy said. “This new partnership with the Kalamazoo Promise fits that goal. This esteemed program encourages young people to create opportunities for themselves with the help of key social institutions. It matches what we have tried to do at Calvin for almost 150 years now. We can’t wait to begin this new relationship.”

As a result of the program, the Kalamazoo Public Schools have outpaced growth and success rates compared to many other urban school districts that have battled middle-class families fleeing to the suburbs.

It is the hope of proponents of the scholarship that it will continue to build up and strengthen the school system and that adding a partnership with 15 private schools will only add to the attractiveness of the program to potential students.

Although almost 90 percent of Promise students are expected to go to public universities, according to Promise executive director emeritus Janice Brown, this program will enable students to have a wider variety of options when considering secondary education, and Calvin expects to enroll a greater number of students from Kalamazoo in the future.

The success of this program has led some to question whether the state of Michigan should adopt a statewide Promise scholarship to increase college degree attainment as well as the quality of its public school system. While this is not currently on the horizon, as school quality and college attainment measures continue, the benefits of such a program may influence other school districts to follow Kalamazoo’s example.