The Kalamazoo Promise allows Kalamazoo Public School students to graduate debt free by paying for their college tuition


Credit: Sophia DeAnda

Tom Clark and other seniors at Loy Norrix High School line up to receive their graduation awards. It is their final day of high school.

Sophia DeAnda, Staff Writer

The average college student ends up owing over $30,000 in student debt at the time of graduating with a bachelor’s degree. The Kalamazoo Promise is the new beginning to debt-free students.

In 2005, Dr. Janice Brown announced that “students who graduate from the Kalamazoo Public Schools and meet the basic requirements will receive up to 100% of tuition and mandatory fees paid for at any in-state public community college or university.”   

One of the requirements is through-out your K-12 years, you must live within the KPS school district during your continuous enrollment. 

Students who continue in the KPS school district longer get a larger percentage of The Promise than students who join KPS later in their school career. The percentage of the Promise coverage that you are eligible for rises year-after-year.

After high school, if you decide to, you can take a gap year or two, but you must use the Promise within 10 years after graduating. When you decide when and where you want to go to college, your tuition and mandatory fees will be paid for by the Promise; however, room and board, books, food, and other expenses won’t be covered.

You don’t receive the benefit if you started attending KPS in grade 10 or above, but you would still get a 65% coverage from joining KPS in grade 9.  

Overview on the percentage of benefit received from The Promise depending on how long a student has attended KPS.

The Promise covers all kinds of different classes and courses, but only for colleges, universities, and trade schools that are in Michigan and also that are Promise eligible for the benefits. 

K-12 KPS Alumni, Lily DeAnda, has used the advantages of the Kalamazoo Promise with the classes she is taking as a freshman at Western Michigan University.

“Social Work 1, Psychology, Drug Use & Social Impact, Government, and every other class I took is covered — most classes are covered,” said DeAnda.  

She’s “not too worried” about future debt since the Promise has the majority of her expenses covered. 

As opposed to Kevin Reece, current Kalamazoo Valley Community College student and non-KPS graduate, his college experience would have been impacted more positively if he had The Promise.

“I could use the money I’m using to pay for college for other necessities like groceries or rent, and I wouldn’t be graduating with over $60,000 of student loan debt – less stress,” said Reece. 

Having access to the Promise can be a great one-of-a-kind opportunity to take advantage of, since no other school district besides KPS has this privilege. 

Current Loy Norrix junior, Ava Belknap, would be concerned if she didn’t have access to the Promise. 

“I think that I would have to work a lot harder and have to take a lot of extra steps in order to be able to afford college, or I might not be able to go at all,” said Belknap. 

Even if non-KPS  graduates still decide to take the college route knowing it will be harder to afford, it could cause financial stress, resulting in them dropping out. 

According to iGrad for schools author, “Students with fewer money worries perform better in college and are more likely to graduate, while financially stressed students have lower grades and are more likely to drop out.”

The Kalamazoo Promise helps encourage KPS students to attend college, since tuition expense isn’t an issue. Graduating KPS senior, Inez Doezema, plans on attending Western Michigan University, without much conflict involving money. 

“I’m definitely more confident in my decision of choosing to go to college, and I can focus on school more instead of money,” said Doezema.