Absolutely Amazing! “Promise” a Free Scholarship Program
A scholarship program that offers free college tuition as a reward for attending public schools in a Michigan city is catching on in other communities seeking to revitalize their urban centers.
Since November 2005, when anonymous donors in Kalamazoo, Mich., launched the Kalamazoo Promise scholarship, about a dozen cities, such as Pittsburgh, Denver and El Dorado, Ark., have started similar programs.
Many more are considering doing so. Officials from 82 cities, including La Crosse, Wis.; San Francisco; and Portland, Ore., met recently in Kalamazoo to discuss how to adapt the concept.
My father dreamed about the American Dream in his teens in Bosnia and eventually he became an American citizen who actually lived it. My parents worked hard, built a beautiful home, eventually took some risks and lived more than a comfortable life.
Quite honestly, though, I look at what they’ve accomplished and know that my generation doesn’t have the same feeling of security to attempt any risks. My parents generation had factory jobs which had things called profit sharing, pension plans, paid in full insurance. What does my generation have? Employer contributions to 401k and insurance plans. Not quite the same thing as being able to outright purchase a new car, place a down payment on a first-time homebuyer house, buy the bricks necessary to cover the 3500 square foot home one is building with the mid year profit sharing check.
In reality, though my parents lived in the now for a very long time and didn’t really plan for a future that may not be quite as lucrative .. but how could my parent’s generation have know that things would change .. I mean I am part of generation X – the first generation whose sons would make by today’s standards 12% less income than their fathers and this doesn’t include the loss of non-cash benefits like insurance and pension plans. In reallity had they not taken the risk of going into the manufacturing business they likely would have had to have taken equity loans to put us through college – like most Bosnians of their generation they saw it as their duty to put us through college and that duty is one that has been inherited by their children.
So, this scholarship program gives me hope that there is going to be that opportunity once again. That there is one less burden placed on working families chasing the American Dream. More than that though, it offers hope to revitalizing economies. In a down real estate market, it offers incentive for people to move to these communities and therefore increases property values and it gives sluggish apprehensive first-time home buyers a little kick in the right direction because it is no longer just an investment in a home but a solid investment in their children’s future. Growing communities require services which in turn causes new start-up businesses, which creates more jobs. Growing and communities in the process of revitalizing also draw big corporations as corporations look for inexpensive land but still need to be in areas that have or will have lots of people and with today’s price of gasoline and no relief in sight big corporation will draw people to move closer to their company and thereby cause even more demand for housing and the usual outcome is new construction.
Wow! Okay .. I think I got way ahead of myself here and being the cynical generation Xer that I am .. will these communities be able to keep this ‘promise’? Since I am feeling an unusual surge of optomism here – it would be in the best interest of local corporations, big business and even small business to invest in this scholarship fund and we already know that corporations like to invest in the community and even the small business owner understands community involvement – Mom and Pop’s Pizza all over little league uniforms. Community planning and development boards should take this into consideration and not just count on the scholarship program to revitalize their community but they should provide incentives to businesses to draw them in and keep them – this one aspect is going to be crucial. State and Federal government could step in as well by offering additional tax breaks for contributing to such scholarship programs.