By Maggie Swafford, guest writer.
I am fortunate to receive the Kalamazoo Promise. Although I won’t have my full tuition covered, I will have 95 percent, and that’s an incredible gift. I, along with hundreds of other students will apply for the Promise at the beginning of our senior year, but what about the students who will be denied that privilege? What do they do when their friends are getting thousands of dollars to go to college and they’re stuck applying for every scholarship they can find and often being denied those as well? As wonderful as the Promise is, it isn’t covering as many students as it could, and those students are left as an ignored statistic after graduation.
Junior Frankie Stevens has been enrolled in Kalamazoo Public Schools for six years and she is planning on attending college, without the Promise.
“I live like, half a mile outside the boundary line,” said Stevens, “Knowing that I’ve been going to the Kalamazoo schools so long and knowing that I won’t get the Promise is really hard, especially because I do so much in support of the school.”
The Promise won’t cover Stevens, no matter how many PeaceJam events she attends, tennis matches she wins, or A’s she gets in her classes. Though she knows her situation is unfortunate, she hasn’t decided whether she agrees with it or not.
“Half of me thinks that I should receive the Promise because I’ve been going to KPS for most of my life, but the other half knows that there needs to be restrictions on the money they give out,” Stevens said,“Nothing’s ever going to be fair to everyone, but I think they’ve done a pretty good job at keeping it as fair as possible.”
It does, however, leave her and myself wondering why she won’t receive the Promise.
According to an MLive article on Kalamazoo Public Schools’ dropout rate, “10 percent of KPS students in the class of 2014 dropped out. The money of those who dropped out could be going to students who are close to reaching the eligibility requirements, but are just outside the KPS boundaries.”
In the same article Julie Mack writes that, “about two thirds of KPS students in the class of 2014 come from low-income families.”
These students may or may not be eligible for a Promise that could change their entire future. That doesn’t sound like much of a ‘Promise’.
On the opposite end, junior Nick Stamper is eligible for 100 percent of the Promise, and is already benefitting from the opportunities that have been opened up for him by it.
“If I didn’t have the Promise, I would have to pull money out of my own pocket,” said Stamper, “I would still go to college without the Promise, but now I can use my money to pay for books and have a little extra instead of worrying about tuition thanks to the Promise.”
Unlike Stevens, Stamper knows exactly how he feels about the Promise’s guideline problems.
“If you jump into KPS for 10th grade and think, ‘I’m going to get free college,’ that’s not fair to those who worked for it their entire school career. But if you’ve attended from 9th grade or before, you should be able to get the Promise,” said Stamper, “The boundaries rule should be changed. It’s not okay that people outside of the city that go to Kalamazoo Public Schools can’t get the Promise. They earned the Promise. Simple as that.”
And it is just as simple as that. I understand that there’s only so much money to go around. I also understand that the Promise was set up from the beginning to provide for all KPS students. If there are students dropping out or unable to get the Promise, that means there’s money set aside for them that won’t be used for them. There’s no reason that students in KPS should be excluded from a scholarship opportunity based on a living situation that they most likely cannot control. After all, Kalamazoo is only so big.