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The Kalamazoo Promise, Michigan
The Kalamazoo Promise, Michigan | Photo courtesy of Candace Brown / Kalamazoo Promise

The Kalamazoo Promise, Michigan

The deal: Free or discounted tuition at Michigan public colleges for Kalamazoo high school graduates.

With about 260,263 residents, Kalamazoo isn't a huge county, but for public school students there, it's a lucrative place to live. Thanks to anonymous donors, any student who attends 9th through 12th grade at a Kalamazoo public high school will receive 65% off tuition at any 2- or 4-year public college in Michigan. The longer the resident has attended a Kalamazoo secondary school, the more free tuition he or she gets. Those who attend kindergarten through 12th grade receive 100% free tuition for up to 130 college credits.

"There's really no 'gotchas,'" says Kalamazoo Promise Executive Director Bob Jorth. "(Students) do have to maintain a 2.0 GPA in college, but they're not required to come back to Kalamazoo."

Since the program started in 2006, it has awarded $66 million to more than 3,800 students. Several towns have followed in Kalamazoo's footsteps. El Dorado, Arkansas; New Haven, Connecticut; Rockford, Illinois, and Pittsburgh offer similar programs to city residents. A list of Promise programs is available at FinAid.org.

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