Promise Research at the Upjohn Institute

Welcome to the W.E. Upjohn Institute’s interactive database of place-based or “Promise” scholarship programs. These programs are designed to reduce the cost of higher education for a large segment of a community’s young people, thereby transforming not just the lives of these individuals but also the places in which they live and the school districts they attend.

Since 2006, the Upjohn Institute has played a leading role in advancing understanding of the Promise movement, beginning with rigorous research on the impact of the Kalamazoo Promise. As other place-based scholarship programs have emerged, the Institute has worked to connect researchers across communities, align analytical approaches, and generate collective knowledge about impact. The Institute has also been a leader in educating stakeholders and policymakers regarding the impact of Promise programs.

We hope that this tool will be of use to Promise stakeholders, present and future; the media; policymakers; educators; and members of the public. We welcome feedback on the database; please email us at with corrections or additions.


  • 48 programs added, for a total of 192
  • Corrections and program changes
  • Added four new variables:
    • Origin of the program as either community or institution based
    • Whether program is part of the California College Promise Grant
    • Number of students served by the program
    • Street address of the program office or primary institution
  • Updated saturation and intensity indices
    • Low indicates a program is in the bottom quarter of programs; Middle indicates it is in the middle two quarters; and High indicates it is in the top quarter of programs
  • Updated demographic characteristics of program areas
  • Updated national map of Promise programs


  • 55 programs added, for a total of 144
  • Corrections and program changes
  • Updated saturation and intensity indices
  • Updated demographic characteristics of program areas

About the Promise Database

Below you will find some of the most frequently asked questions about Promise Programs. Please contact us if you have any further questions.

Why did the Upjohn Institute create this database?

Beginning with the announcement of the Kalamazoo Promise in 2005, the Upjohn Institute has been tracking the emergence of Promise programs in other communities. This material was available on our website in tabular form for many years. As the Promise movement has grown and variations in program structure have emerged, the Institute has sought to categorize and classify Promise programs by their various attributes. This database, which currently includes approximately 190 community- and institution-based Promise programs, is a product of our data collection and analysis efforts. By providing data and analytical tools in an interactive, searchable format, we hope to make it easier for stakeholders, policymakers, media, researchers, and other interested individuals to learn about the Promise movement in its many different forms.

What determines whether a program is included in the database?

In compiling this database, we use a definition we have developed over the years. Promise scholarship programs, a term sometimes used synonymously with place-based scholarship programs, are geographically bounded, often along the lines of a school district, although boundaries may be larger, such as a county, or smaller, such as an individual school. Such programs usually include an enrollment and/or residency requirement for length of attendance within the school district or eligible entity. Because of this enrollment requirement, Promise programs function as early awareness programs. Families and children know upon entering a Promise community that scholarship resources will be available to them upon high school graduation. Finally, Promise programs seek to transform places, as well as individuals, and as such require community support from multiple stakeholders representing diverse sectors.

Programs in this database fit into one of two categories. Community-based programs are those emanating from local leaders working together to expand college access for young people in their communities and transform their local economies and/or school districts. Institution-based programs emanate from community colleges that have made attendance tuition free, building on preexisting federal and—in some cases—state aid.

Scholarship programs that do not fit these categories are not included here. So, statewide programs like the Tennessee Promise that bear many similarities to community-based programs are excluded, as is an earlier generation of statewide merit-based programs, such as Georgia HOPE. Also excluded are college access programs that do not have a scholarship component or that are not yet actively granting scholarships. Finally, we do not include programs that serve (or plan to serve) fewer than 10 students annually; this includes some scholarship programs offered by private or public flagship colleges or universities to local students.

If you know about or work with a program that you believe should be included in our database, please let us know. We can be reached by email at

Where does the data in the database come from?

The data have been compiled primarily from information provided on the websites of individual Promise programs. We have also consulted print sources, such as newspaper articles and publications of Promise programs. Before release, we contact each of the Promise programs listed, offering program staff an opportunity to update or correct information.

The Upjohn Institute seeks to ensure that this database is comprehensive, accurate, and timely. If you believe that a program should be added to the database or want to update or edit information for an existing program, please let us know at

What are some ways I can use the database?

The multiple functions of the database are designed to be accessed intuitively. You can:

  • Generate profiles of individual Promise programs
  • Compare up to three programs at once by viewing their key characteristics side by side
  • • Search for programs by certain characteristics, including the year established, the state where they are located, the type of funder, whether or not there are financial need or academic merit requirements, the scope of post-secondary institutions where the scholarship may be used, and two measures we have developed – saturation and intensity (see below)
  • Find out what research has been conducted related to various programs or types of program outcomes
  • Request the entire dataset for research purposes.

You can specify multiple fields to target your search, or you can browse the entire database. More than 90 variables are covered in the full database, including some technical ones that are not available in the interactive browser. A comprehensive list of variables covered and their definitions, as well as sources of data, can be accessed here. A glossary of common terms used in Promise research can be found here.

The interactive browser version of the database is an open access resource. The entire database may also be accessed freely upon request. Before having access to the full database you will be asked to provide your name and contact information; you may then use the data in your research, provided you acknowledge the source (see below).

Is there a glossary of common terms in Promise research available?

Why yes!

Download Glossary

There is also a comprehensive list of variables covered; their definitions, as well as sources of data, can be downloaded as well.

Download Variables List
What does Saturation measure?

Saturation refers to the proportion of a school district’s students that are likely to be eligible for the scholarship. Several indicators are combined to create an index that is converted to high, medium, and low categories. The specific indicators used include whether there are income, attendance, residency, merit, and/or other requirements; and, if there are academic merit requirements (such as a GPA cutoff), how restrictive they are. The higher the Saturation indicator, the more likely are detectable impacts in the K-12 system and community.

Intensity and Saturation together will determine not only the expected magnitude of impacts but also the extent to which impacts are likely to be felt broadly across different groups of students.

What does Intensity measure?

Intensity refers to the size of the incentive created by the scholarship program. Several indicators are combined to create an index that is converted to high, medium, and low categories. The specific indicators used include the type of scholarship (first v. last dollar), whether the scholarship covers non-tuition expenses, the number of years of scholarship benefits, the number and type of post-secondary institutions covered by the scholarship, and the dollar value of the annual maximum possible award. The higher the Intensity indicator, the more likely the scholarship is to drive changes in student behavior.

Intensity and Saturation together will determine not only the expected magnitude of impacts but also the extent to which impacts are likely to be felt broadly across different groups of students.

How do I add a new program to the database or update or correct information?

We welcome updates and corrections to the database. We update the database annually and include new features in the future. Please contact us at with any updates or corrections you would like to submit.

How do I cite the database?

Miller-Adams, Michelle, Brad Hershbein, Bridget Timmeney, and Isabel McMullen. 2017. Promise Programs Database. Kalamazoo, MI: W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, Promise: Investing in Community. Updated May 2019, July 2020. Available at:

Can I obtain the entire database from W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research?

The full Promise Database is available as an Excel file for research purposes. To request access to this file, or if you have any questions about the database, please contact us at We ask that you please cite the Upjohn Institute as in the previous tab.

Who are the database’s creators?

Michelle Miller-Adams, senior researcher at the W.E. Upjohn Institute and professor of political science at Grand Valley State University, has been tracking the Promise movement since 2006. She has written two books on the topic, one focusing on the initial impact of the Kalamazoo Promise and the other on the national Promise movement. She works with communities across the nation in designing Promise programs and is a resource for media and policymakers. She is also co-author of the Promise Monitoring and Evaluation Framework.

Brad Hershbein, senior economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute, conducts research on the effectiveness of the Kalamazoo Promise. He has analyzed migration patterns around the timing of the introduction of the Kalamazoo Promise. With co-authors at the Institute, he has examined the post-secondary success of students affected by the Kalamazoo Promise and the program’s cost effectiveness. Ongoing research investigates workforce outcomes.

Bridget Timmeney, senior project consultant at the W.E. Upjohn Institute, conducts research on federal, state and regional workforce and education programs. She works with communities across the nation interested in replicating Promise programs to assist in identifying the community’s critical need, to assess how program design could address this need and to forecast cost scenarios of varying designs. She also facilitates community engagement activities critical to Promise programs’ success.

Isabel McMullen, research analyst at the W.E. Upjohn Institute, assists with various research projects related to The Kalamazoo Promise and the national Promise movement. She specializes in the collection, management, and analysis of Kalamazoo Promise related data, and is a co-author on multiple forthcoming studies on the postsecondary outcomes of Kalamazoo Promise scholars.

The database could not have been completed without the talents and efforts of Gerrit Anderson, Megan Davis, Janelle Grant, Marie Holler, Jeff Martin, Allison McKenna, Jason Preuss, Vidhay Reddy, Kriti Singh, Nathan Sotherland, and other Upjohn Institute staff and interns. The authors thank Randy Eberts, Mike Horrigan, and the Upjohn Institute Board of Trustees for their support for this project.