The Kalamazoo Promise and Place-Based Scholarships

The Upjohn Institute plays a leading role in research and evaluation of place-based scholarship programs locally and nationally.

What is a Promise scholarship

Since 2005, close to 100 communities and a growing number of states have created scholarship programs based on location. While these vary in structure, they all seek to increase access to higher education, transform local K-12 school districts, and contribute to the vitality of their communities. Many of these programs were inspired by The Kalamazoo Promise.

Promise programs are found throughout the United States. They share some common features but vary from each other in many ways, including student eligibility, where students may use their scholarships, and how much money is awarded. The Institute maintains a database that tracks these and other features of the growing population of Promise programs.

Understanding the Promise movement

PromiseNet: Since 2007, the Upjohn Institute has convened Promise stakeholders to learn from each other at annual PromiseNet conferences.

Research Consortium: The Upjohn Institute regularly convenes researchers to share knowledge and undertake collaborative studies. Research Consortium participants have investigated post-secondary outcomes of Promise programs with funding from Lumina Foundation, and are currently investigating workforce outcomes of Promise programs with funding from Strada Education Network.

College Promise Research Network: Institute staff members serve on the steering committee of the national College Promise Research Network, currently in the planning stages.

Is Promise right for your community?

The Upjohn Institute consults with communities around the design, feasibility, and cost of place-based scholarship programs. The activities carried out by the Institute include the following:

  • Consultations: Institute staff meet with stakeholders involved in designing Promise programs in their own communities.
  • Cost Estimates: Institute economists have developed models to forecast the cost of Promise programs in other communities.
  • Feasibility / Design and Impact Studies: The Institute conducts feasibility, design, and/or impact studies. These projects range in scope from short-term (several months long), research-based projects to longer-term (up to a year or more) projects with community visits and meetings with stakeholders and individuals.
  • Evaluations: The Institute can undertake short- or long-term impact studies of Promise-type programs once under way.

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Evaluating Promise programs

Despite their rapid growth, relatively few Promise programs have been evaluated. Among those that have been studied (usually the older, larger, and more generous programs), researchers have generally found increases in school district enrollment and college-going. Some programs have also been found to increase college completion and raise property values, and there are plans underway to study workforce outcomes. Research studies of Promise programs are organized alphabetically by author as well as by type of outcome.

Because Promise programs vary considerably, it is important to use a common conceptual framework when evaluating them. With some of our research partners, we have developed a Promise Monitoring and Evaluation Framework that can help in this effort. The Kalamazoo Promise has been studied more extensively than any other Promise program, and the Upjohn Institute has conducted most of these studies.

Kalamazoo Promise data

The Upjohn Institute tracks several usage and success measures of the Kalamazoo Promise. Data can be viewed or downloaded here; these tables are updated annually.