Giving Compass' Take:

· Writing for The Brookings Institution, Michelle Miller-Adams and John C. Austin discuss findings from The Kalamazoo Promise and how promise programs have the potential to help former industrial communities. 

· What are promise programs and how do they encourage students to graduate? How can donors support promise programs? 

· Check out this article to read more about promise programs and The Detroit Promise


The nation is seeing accelerating gaps in economic opportunity and prosperity between more educated, tech-savvy, knowledge workers congregating in the nation’s “superstar” cities (and a few university-town hothouses) and residents of older industrial cities and the small towns of “flyover country.” These growing divides are shaping public discourse, as policymakers and thought leaders advance recipes to foster economic opportunity in non-coastal communities.

Given this context, interest is growing in place-based economic development strategies that are successfully transforming midsized Heartland communities into home-grown talent hubs.

New findings from Kalamazoo, Mich., and other communities that have adopted human capital-based strategies to rebuild and repopulate their communities are a central feature of the W. E. Upjohn Institute’s (Upjohn’s) place-based research initiative and its recent report, Building Shared Prosperity: How Communities Can Create Good Jobs for All.

In 2005, Kalamazoo, home to the nation’s first local taxpayer-funded free public high school (1858), launched the nation’s first community-wide, universal free higher education guarantee. The Kalamazoo Promise is available to graduates of the Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS) district, which includes all of the city of Kalamazoo and parts of several other small municipalities. The Promise provide KPS graduates up to four years of tuition at Michigan public colleges, universities, and community colleges, and tuition subsidies for selected independent Michigan colleges and universities.

Evaluations of the Promise conducted by Upjohn and others demonstrate its ability to boost not only higher education attainment for participants, but also community economic development, as the city and school district experienced a reversal in decades-long out-migration (an elusive goal urban policies have long sought).

Read the full article about Promise programs by Michelle Miller-Adams and John C. Austin at The Brookings Institution.