I was on the phone last night with my friend Rick and he told me about this project called Kalamazoo Promise. I grew up in a suburb of Kalamazoo and my parents still live there. Rick works for the city of Kalamazoo today. Someone very wealthy in the area – and their identity is a complete mystery – has started an endowed fund promising to pay the tuition for each and every student that graduates from Kalamazoo Public Schools to attend any public university or community college in the state. It works on a sliding scale depending on how long you attended. Someone who was in Kalamazoo public schools for the entire K-12 period gets 100% of their tuition paid and it slides down to those who just attended 9-12th grades there getting 65% of their tuition paid.
What an incredible gift to the community. This will not only provide opportunities for thousands and thousands of students to go to college, it will also create boom in that city. Property values are already rising as people move back into the city to take advantage of this opportunity. The money it frees up from parents who would otherwise have had to pay for college can instead stimulate the economy, or be invested elsewhere. I figure the endowment must be in the $1 billion range, at minimum, to cover the yearly outflow.
But there’s a downside to this: would you believe people are actually complaining about it? My friend doesn’t live in the city of Kalamazoo, he lives in an outlying suburb, and he said he’s spoken to many people there who are upset about it because it doesn’t cover their kids. He even spoke to one woman who complained that it discriminates against Christians because it only includes the public schools and not private religious schools. How’s that for ungrateful? The bottom line is that this is an incredible example of someone giving back to the community and giving opportunities to others. It should be applauded by everyone, all the more so because the benefactor remains secret.