Every once in a while an idea comes up that is so wild, audacious and awe-inspiring that you can’t believe that someone could possibly do it. Kalamazoo, MI came up with such an idea two years ago. They agreed to pay up to 100% of the college tuition and fees for graduates of Kalamazoo’s three public high schools, funding it from local philanthropists. I’ve spoken with numerous other towns that are looking at doing something similar and reported on one, Newton, IA, that has already launched a similar program.
Kalamazoo was a town down on its luck. It was losing population, unemployment was rising, housing prices were falling and poverty was up. But in the past year, the city has seen an influx of families from over 30 states and housing prices increased by 4% in the past year. School enrollment increased by the largest percentage in the state. The year before the program started 265 students dropped out of Kalamazoo high schools. Last year only 21 did and 23 who had earlier dropped out re-enrolled.
Jeff Thredgold, an economist who writes about a number of economic development issues wrote his weekly newsletter last week on this program. I hope that you will read his report.
Website is www.thredgold.com