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Kalamazoo Promise scholarship yields mixed results

Six years after Kalamazoo Public schools unveiledthe Promise scholarship, the program's administrators say the program has had success, but maintain there is still a lot of work to be done, according to the Kalamazoo Gazette.

The program has provided tuition assistance to more than 2,300 district high school graduates to the tune of over $30 million.

The Kalamazoo Promise scholarship program is available to all Kalamazoo public school students. After students graduate high school, the program covers 100 percent of tuition and "mandatory fees" to any public Michigan university or college.

The Kalamazoo Gazette reports that roughly one third of Promise students have dropped out after starting college using program funding, while another 10 percent of eligible students don't make use of the program.

Executive director for the Kalamazoo Promise, Janice Brown told the paper:

“Those numbers tell the story of what still needs to be done,” adding “Do we as a community find that acceptable? The answer is a resounding ‘no.’”

The Gazette also included a list of findings released by Promise administrators:

Promise students start college at a higher rate than the average for recent graduates of Michigan public high schools. Since 2006, 90 percent of students eligible for The Promise have attended college for at least one semester, compared to 71 percent of all Michigan high school graduates. Promise-eligible students are much more likely to attend college than graduates who do not qualify for the scholarship. Between 2006 and 2010, there were 389 KPS graduates who do not qualify for The Promise. Of those students, 201 — or 52 percent — have started college. About 10 percent of Promise-eligible students have never attended college. Among those who graduated between 2006 and 2010, an estimated 235 students have never enrolled in college. They have 10 years from their high school graduation to use the program. Since the Class of 2006 started college five years ago, a total of 136 Promise students have earned bachelor’s degrees, 31 have earned associate degrees and 13 have completed a certificate program. There’s also another 74 students who used up their Promise funds before earning a degree. (The programs pays for 130 credits, which is about four years of college.) The overall college persistence/dropout rate for Promise students appears to mirror the national average. Of the 2,356 students who have used The Promise, 11 percent have either graduated or have used up their Promise funds, about 52 percent are in school this fall, and the remaining 37 percent are not in school this semester. By comparison, about 50 percent of Americans who start college have not completed a program six years later, according to federal statistics.

Administrators say they are focusing on ways to ensure students are not only able to afford college, but are prepared academically as well.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom