The Kalamazoo Promise turns 16: what we know about the program’s outcomes

Promise graduate

By Kathleen Bolter and Isabel McMullen

The end of May marks a momentous time for high school graduates as they look toward the future and the next chapter of their lives. For many of those graduates, this means enrolling at a university, college, or other postsecondary training program in the fall. Graduates of Kalamazoo Public Schools are eligible for the Kalamazoo Promise, a scholarship that provides up to 100 percent tuition for post-secondary education.    

The Kalamazoo Promise has been in effect for more than 16 years, with close to 10,000 KPS students making use of the scholarship at some point. From the program’s inception, the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research has served as a partner to the Kalamazoo Promise, particularly in the areas of research and evaluation. Functioning as a hub for research efforts and a convener of those seeking to strengthen the connection between education and economic development, the Upjohn Institute has studied many facets of the Kalamazoo Promise -- from college enrollment and completion to the job market, debt burden for students, and community impact.

In honor of the Kalamazoo Promise’s “Sweet Sixteenth,” we have compiled 16 key findings from our 16 years of studying the Kalamazoo Promise into one illustrated booklet. Although additional research is ongoing, the studies that have been completed show the immense impact of the Kalamazoo Promise on the lives of the residents of the Kalamazoo community. Below, we highlight six of the most interesting findings from studying 16 years of the Kalamazoo Promise.

student enrollment
return to college
more earning BAs
less borrowing
less likely to report large amounts of loan debt
staying in the community

The Kalamazoo Promise will continue to influence the lives of people in Kalamazoo and the larger community for many years to come. To read more about the impacts of the Kalamazoo Promise and the other 10 important research findings, download the full report.  


Kathleen Bolter headshot

Kathleen Bolter

Project Manager, Policies for Place Initiative

Research Topics: Promise Programs