The Effects of the Kalamazoo Promise Scholarship on Post-Secondary Educational Attainment: Implications for the Benefits and Costs of Generous and Universal College Subsidies

Can a scholarship program offering college tuition subsidies reduce gaps in college enrollment, credits attempted, and post-secondary credentials earned?

The Kalamazoo Promise, announced in 2005, offers college tuition subsidies of up to 100 percent to high school students continuously enrolled in the Kalamazoo district who graduate high school and are admitted to any public college in Michigan. Because the scholarship is not merit-based, the program presents a unique opportunity to compare eligible students to similar students who are ineligible due to enrolling in the district after the ninth grade. By comparing eligible and ineligible students, the investigators will be able to examine whether tuition subsidies can affect educational outcomes and earnings prospects for youth. While previous work has shown positive effects of tuition subsidies on high school completion and college enrollment, less is known about the effects on college persistence, college completion, and earnings after college. Lachowska will examine these effects using data from school administrative records from 5,000 students between 2003 and 2013, data on college attendance and completion, and data designed to simulate forecasted earnings. The investigators will also examine variation by students’ race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status to estimate the program’s ability to reduce gaps in educational and earnings outcomes. Finally, Lachowska will analyze the cost of the tuition subsidies to the estimated increased earnings of students. This work will contribute to understanding the potential of non–merit-based tuition subsidies to improve longer-term educational and life outcomes for youth.

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