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The Kalamazoo Promise, announced in 2005, is an innovative college-scholarship program available to every graduate of the Kalamazoo (Michigan) Public Schools. Programs such as the Kalamazoo Promise, which is being emulated in cities across the United States, open new avenues for the acquisition of human capital regardless of income level or academic achievement, while facilitating the creation of new economic and social assets for the community. Following a brief explanation of the program itself, this paper examines the Kalamazoo Promise as a human capital-investment strategy and its potential as a mechanism for reducing inequality. I find that the Kalamazoo Promise and programs modeled on it can reduce inequality, although not necessarily in expected ways. While full college scholarships in and of themselves open the path to free higher education for all youth in a community, the barriers to success remain high for economically disadvantaged and lower-achieving students. The more powerful influence of such programs on inequality comes from their role as a catalyst for change in the culture of the school district and for the alignment of a community’s resources around the broader goals of the program.

Issue Date

April 22-25, 2010

Subject Areas

EDUCATION; Postsecondary education; Postsecondary access; Promise scholarships; LABOR MARKET ISSUES; Wages, health insurance and other benefits; Inequality; ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT; Regional policy and planning; Michigan studies; Urban issues




Miller-Adams, Michelle. 2010. "Can Universal, Place-Based Scholarships Reduce Inequality? Lessons from Kalamazoo, Michigan." Presented at the Midwest Political Science Association conference, Chicago, IL, April 22-25.