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In 9th year, Kalamazoo Promise expands to private colleges, universities

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The Kalamazoo Promise is expanding to include private colleges and universities in Michigan.

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.

Newschannel 3 was on-hand for the big announcement, and took a look at what the new expansion could mean for local families.

Tuesday's announcement was one that was years in the making.

Kalamazoo Promise Trustee Janice Brown helped launch the promise 9 years ago, and oversaw Tuesday's transition to include Michigan's 15 private colleges and universities.

It's an amazing gift, that she says will even the playing field even further when it comes to family income level and opportunity.

"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," Brown said.

As it is now, more wealthy families have more college graduates.

62 percent of students from families with a household income of $70,000 or more graduate from college--compared to only 37 percent from families earning $25,000 or less.

"That's an unbelievable gift that someone is giving to us; and I have no idea who it is," said KPS mother Kristy Link.

Link has five children, ages 6 through 16, who all attend Kalamazoo Public Schools, and will soon have the choice of a public or private college, tuition free.

Her total benefit, should all five of her kids opt for private school for four years, could be more than $800,000.

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

Bob Bartlett, President of the Michigan Colleges Alliance, says the private schools themselves will kick in a big chunk of the tuition--after the promise pays what it would if a student were attending U-of-M.

At Kalamazoo College--the most expensive school in the state--that's $40,000 in free tuition.

Kalamazoo College President Dr. Eileen WIlson-Oyelaran says it's a big investment, but it's worth every penny.

"We are making a huge commitment," she said. "It's around student success and it's around Kalamazoo College commitment to a community that has supported us for 181 years."

For more information on the Kalamazoo Promise announcement, check out the stories on WWMT.com.