How One Michigan City Is Sending Kids To College Tuition-Free

By NPR staff

Paying for college presents a tremendous hurdle to many families, from wading through paperwork and navigating financial aid to understanding the long-term implications of college debt.

But what if the city you lived in footed the bill for college? That’s what Kalamazoo, Mich., has been doing for almost a decade. In 2005, a group of anonymous donors launched an ambitious program. They pledged enough money to pay the tuition of most students who graduate from the district’s public high schools to attend any of Michigan’s public universities or community colleges.

The effort, called the Kalamazoo Promise, has spent about $50 million assisting more than 3,000 students from the city.

One of them, Erica Adams, was a high school sophomore when the program launched. She’s since graduated from Michigan State University and is now a foster care specialist for the state of Michigan.

Adams and Kalamazoo resident Michelle Miller-Adams, author of a book about the program, The Power of a Promise: Education and Economic Renewal in Kalamazoo, both spoke with NPR’s Michel Martin about how the program has changed how students and educators think about opportunities beyond high school.

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