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"Detroit College Promise" awards $500 tuition grant to students

kids in classroom
Mercedes Mejia
Michigan Radio
The Detroit College Promise awards DPS seniors $500 if they attend a Michigan college or university.

When U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Detroit last week, he brought up the Kalamazoo Promise scholarship program. He called it the “best economic development tool” for a city, and urged Detroit to develop something similar.

"If we could make that guarantee of not just a 2-year but a 4-year university education possible for every young man and woman who graduates from Detroit Public Schools, that would be absolutely amazing."

Nat Pernick created a Kalamazoo Promise-like scholarship in 2009 for Detroit students. The Detroit College Promise offers up to $500 to all high school seniors in Detroit.

Pernick says he eventually wants to be like the Kalamazoo Promise and offer full college tuition to qualifying students, but he’s not sure how long it’ll take to get there:

"Our next goal is to be able to offer $10,000 per student - that would be $2,500 a year for four years - and we’re hoping for the class that’s entering high school right now, the class of 2015. That will probably cost us about $5 million a year. That’s something that is doable.”

Pernick says a lot of institutions think it's better to "wait until we have all the money" before starting a scholarship program. But "we have kids who need help today," explains Pernick.

The Detroit College Promise is funded by individual donations and grants, unlike the anonymously-funded Kalamazoo Promise.

Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and was one of the lead reporters on the award-winning education series Rebuilding Detroit Schools. Prior to working at Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station in the Bronx.
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