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Looking at potential financial benefit to Promise extension

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Kalamazoo Public School officials made a major announcement Tuesday to expand the Kalamazoo Promise.

The Promise was first announced in 2005, for the graduating class of 2006.

So far, more than $54 million in scholarships has been given out to nearly 3,300 students.

Promise scholars have earned more than 800 degrees and credentials since the program started.

Starting next school year, students can now use their scholarships at more Michigan schools--specifically the 15 private schools in Michigan, which are members of the Michigan Colleges Alliance.

Kristy Link is a mother of 5 KPS students, between the ages of 6 and 16.

She says she doesn't know who the promise donors are; all she knows is that she's thankful for them.

All five of her children attend Kalamazoo Public Schools, and all will soon have the choice of a public or private college--tuition free.

"Thank you," she said. "I just receive this gift with a thankful heart."

There are many grateful hearts Tuesday, following the day's announcement.

Link's financial benefit for five kids could top $800,000 after the announcement that Michigan's 15 private colleges are joining the Promise next year, and pledging to pay the way for all KPS grads.

"It is a major commitment, said Bob Bartlett, President of the Michigan Colleges Alliance. "15 college presidents came around to decide it was the right thing to do, and they decided they would find the money to make it happen."

Kalamazoo Promise Trustee Janice Brown helped launch the promise nine years ago.

"It's a tremendous commitment of those schools to want to join in the partnership to ensure that there are choices for kids in KPS--that all of the kids can go to colleges of their choice," she said.

Those kids are ones like Jay Valikodath, who grew up in poverty, but graduated from Western Michigan University this spring.

He now has big plans and a healthy bank account, all on account of the Promise.

"Zero dollars in student loan debt," He said. "I'll be moving to Chicago with a little bit of money in my pocket, unlike a lot of my classmates. It's all thanks to the Kalamazoo Promise, and the anonymous donors."