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Kalamazoo Promise 2.0? Ypsilanti embarks on districtwide scholarship program

Ypsilanti Community Schools

Ypsilanti’s school district is pushing for a districtwide scholarship program that will provide tuition funds to its graduates.

On Monday, Ypsilanti Community Schools officially opened its doors. YCS is the product of school consolidation in Washtenaw County. Earlier this year, voters approved the combination of the financially troubled Ypsilanti Public School district and Willow Run Community Schools.

With a new mascot selected and a logo finalized, the merged district is beginning to rebrand its image.

School supporters hope a new scholarship program that would provide funding for community college tuition for all qualifying students will be a big part of that new image.

Looking to the Kalamazoo Promise as inspiration, school officials, business owners and local government leaders are working together to figure out how the district can ensure two years of community college for all graduates eligible for admission.

Now in its eighth year, the Kalamazoo Promise is a program that guarantees college funding for graduates of public schools in Kalamazoo. Funded by a group of anonymous donors, the scholarship promises to cover tuition at any of Michigan’s public colleges or universities.

But unlike the program in Kalamazoo, Ypsilanti doesn’t have wealthy donors backing up its program - at least not yet. So officials are setting their sights to a community college scholarship program.

YCS superintendent Scott Menzel said community college tuition is a good goal to reach for.

From AnnArbor.com:

"Setting up a promise that students could get two years paid for at WCC (Washtenaw Community College) seems like far more reachable of a target as we've been looking at what's possible. But obviously, we wouldn't deny people the opportunity to give if this becomes a particular passion for people in the community...If we find there are enough passionate people, then absolutely, we'd love to make this more than [a two-year scholarship]."

Though a planned date for the scholarship's implementation is still up in the air, Menzel said some options might make first graduating class of YCS eligible for funding. "We would like to be able to proceed as quickly as possible, but the final answer is predicated on the amount of funding we are able to generate in the next few months. "

"We are also exploring other creative ways of creating a sustainable funding model that could allow us to implement as early as the first graduating class from YCS."

Despite the relative youth of the school district, Menzel said this is the right time to get a promise scholarship plan up and running. 

"The vision of the community for the new school system includes ensuring that every graduate has the opportunity to earn college credit and/or a career credential by the time they graduate," Menzel said.

"While it will take time to generate enough funding to achieve the ultimate vision of the promise, now is absolutely the right time to talk about laying the foundation and creating an expectation that this will be part of the commitment of the new district."

For more on the Kalamazoo Promise, check out Stateside's coverage of the successes — and downfalls — of the program.


- Melanie Kruvelis, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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