Upjohn Author ORCID Identifier


Publication Date



Policy Paper No. 2018-019




We argue that place-based college scholarships, if designed intentionally and leveraged effectively, can foster local economic development. Since the introduction of the Kalamazoo Promise in 2005, a growing number of communities have applied the place-based approach to investments in human capital through the creation of college scholarship programs. Reviewing the existing literature on educational and economic outcomes associated with Promise programs reveals that they can expand students’ postsecondary aspirations, improve a school district’s college-going culture, and increase college enrollment and degree attainment while promoting in-migration of residents and positive growth in housing prices. Therefore, these programs can serve a broader communal interest, benefiting both individuals (e.g., through higher earnings) and their localities. We conclude this report by outlining observations for city leaders and local policymakers that can be distilled into lessons concerning the civic engagement and economic vitality of a community, the attainment of equity in student outcomes, and the scale and sustainability of a program’s design. We hope the evidence presented in this report will aid in the design, adoption, and scaling of programs that harness community assets and respond to community needs.

Issue Date

October 18, 2018

Subject Areas

EDUCATION; Promise scholarships; ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT; Regional policy and planning




Miller-Adams, Michelle and Edward Smith. 2018. "Promise Scholarship Programs and Local Prosperity." Policy Paper No. 2018-019. Kalamazoo, MI: W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. https://doi.org/10.17848/pol2018-019