Allies in Higher Learning0
Since its inception, The Kalamazoo Promise (The Promise) has aided Kalamazoo Public Schools’ (KPS) students in their pursuit of a post-secondary education. Thanks to support from a special partner, Promise Scholars have more options when they graduate high school.
Initially, The Promise exclusively provided tuition support to students who attended public universities within the state of Michigan. Starting with the class of 2015, this aid expanded to include 14 private colleges after The Promise partnered with Michigan Colleges Alliance (MCA).
For 72 years, MCA has worked to strengthen private higher education and its impact on our state. According to President Dr. Bob Bartlett, the organization follows a three-track strategy to accomplish this goal. The first track involves building awareness among potential students and their families.
“Education is all about choices,” he explained. “Some students flourish at large public universities and some flourish at smaller private schools. We want people to understand the options that are available.”
To ensure that more students can take advantage of private education, raising money for scholarships is the second track.
“Each of our MCA schools contribute dollars to help fund scholarships,” Bartlett stated. “Our schools are all-in and contribute financially.”
The third and final track in building awareness for private schools is career development with the focus of keeping talent within the region.
“MCA opens doors for our schools with major employers to secure jobs for students after graduation,” Bartlett revealed. “We position ourselves as the third largest ‘university’ in Michigan, leveraging critical mass among each of the schools.”
As a Promise Partner, MCA works with KPS students to demonstrate the value of a private education by attending career fairs and athletic events, partnering with EmpowerHER College Signing Day, and providing a block grant to seniors from Loy Norrix High School and Kalamazoo Central High School. In addition to these measures, the organization also provides a program that builds interest in STEM disciplines among middle and high school students.
For the past seven years, the Third 90 Network has paired high school students with college students and faculty to partake in field and lab work related to environmental science. The response to this program has been positive, as it creates a pipeline of talent. Despite the initiative’s success, Bartlett still sees room for improvement.
“Our hope is to elevate the Third 90 Network to address learning gaps in algebra and biology,” he said. “To this end, we’ve started a new math and science initiative (the Kalamazoo Math and Science Institute) in Kalamazoo that targets rising ninth graders.”
It certainly has been exciting to see the relationship between The Promise and MCA evolve. We cannot wait to see what the future has in store for this partnership.