NOTE: Eleven Kalamazoo Promise students matriculated to Kalamazoo College last month (September 2015), members of the class of 2019. Kalamazoo College announced its prospective students’ eligibility for the Promise Scholarship in June of 2014, and this year’s group represents the first at K. K was one of 15 private colleges in the Michigan Colleges Alliance newly Promise eligible. The addition of the 15 MCA member institutions to the 43 Michigan public colleges and universities increases the number of Promise eligible schools to 58 throughout the state. For KPS students who enroll at Kalamazoo College the tuition and fees are fully and jointly funded by the Kalamazoo Promise and by K. The Kalamazoo Promise funds at the level of the undergraduate average tuition and fees for the College of Literature, Science and Arts at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor). K covers any difference between that amount and the amount of its yearly tuition and fees.
For Robert Gorman ’94, M.D., the city of Kalamazoo could be The Promise Land.
Nearly 25 years ago, a “promise” (in the form of a scholarship) made by F.W. and Elsie Heyl sent the Loy Norrix High School and Kalamazoo Area Mathematics and Science Center graduate to Kalamazoo College tuition free as a Heyl scholarship recipient.
Fifteen years later, another promise brought him back to Kalamazoo from New Mexico.
In 2005, a group of local philanthropists announced The Kalamazoo Promise, at the time a one-of-a-kind scholarship program that covers 100 percent of the tuition and fees to any Michigan public university or college for every student who attends a Kalamazoo Public School (KPS) from kindergarten to 12th grade (with a sliding scale based on the length of enrollment applying to all other eligible students). Since its inception, the scholarship program (guaranteed in perpetuity) has invested 55 million dollars in more than 3,300 KPS graduates.
It was the actions and generosity of those anonymous donors that would play a role in bringing Gorman and his wife, Jenn, back to his hometown.
“The idea that a community has citizens and benefactors who care so much for it that they would create something like The Promise is incredible,” Gorman says. “That just doesn’t happen everywhere. This place is special.”
The promise that brought him home recently got even more promising.
Beginning with the high school graduating class of 2015, KPS students may use The Promise scholarship to attend Kalamazoo College as well as any one of the other 14 Michigan College Alliance (MCA) liberal arts colleges and universities. The announcement between The Kalamazoo Promise and the MCA was made in June.
“This partnership truly is a winning proposition for all,” says Bob Bartlett, chief executive officer of the MCA. “Promise scholars will benefit from increased college choice throughout the state, and the MCA colleges and universities will be enriched by having these deserving students on their campuses.”
Bob Jorth, executive director of The Kalamazoo Promise, agrees. The addition of Kalamazoo College, specifically, he says, now gives students three distinctly different local choices for higher education. More than 65 percent of Promise scholars attend Western Michigan University or Kalamazoo Valley Community College.
“It’s about giving KPS students more choices and finding the right fit for them,” Jorth says. “We’re extremely happy to have a third ‘neighborhood’ choice for our students. Since the beginning, Kalamazoo College has been a great supporter of The Promise. We’re thrilled to have them on board.”
For K, says the College’s Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Eric Staab, the new partnership is about supporting the community that has supported it for more than 180 years.
“First and foremost, it’s about being a good neighbor,” Staab says. “We wanted to be good stewards and to be a part of this amazing opportunity for KPS students.”
Gorman appreciates the College’s investment in the community and hopes more KPS students will consider K when applying to college.
“I think kids who grow up in Kalamazoo often dismiss K and other local institutions out of a sheer desire to leave town and try something new,” he says. “I would argue that the moment you step on campus you see Kalamazoo College, the city of Kalamazoo, and, indeed, the world, in a completely different way.”
Gorman, who works as an orthopedic surgeon at Bronson HealthCare Midwest in Kalamazoo, and his wife, Jenn, now have three young daughters, Harper, Evan, and Bryn. Their oldest child is in first grade at a Kalamazoo elementary school.
“I grew up in the city of Kalamazoo and was a KPS kid for all of my schooling,” Gorman explains. “When I moved back to town, it was important for me to make my home in the city, to support the local public schools, to contribute to the tax base, and to socially and financially invest in the city.”
As long as Gorman and his wife continue to reside in Kalamazoo, all three of their children would be eligible for The Promise.
Currently, The Kalamazoo Promise donors fund 100 percent of the tuition and fees to any one of the 43 public universities, colleges, and community colleges in the state.
As part of the new agreement with the MCA, full tuition and fees to the MCA schools will be jointly funded by The Kalamazoo Promise and the MCA member institution. The Kalamazoo Promise will fund at the level of the undergraduate tuition and fees for the College of Literature, Science and the Arts at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor—currently the most expensive public school funded by The Kalamazoo Promise.
The MCA member institution will cover the difference between that amount and its yearly tuition and fees. That means Kalamazoo College is investing more than $26,000 a year in a student attending K on The Kalamazoo Promise based on current tuition rates. The costs incurred by the College will not be passed along to other students or affect any financial aid awards.
“It really makes a statement that K, a place that can literally open doors leading to anywhere in the world, is committed to the idea that everyone deserves a chance to have that opportunity, especially young students and families in its backyard,” Gorman says.
The Kalamazoo Promise provides more information at its website [www.kalamazoopromise.com].
Postscript: Like Gorman, author Erin (Miller) Dominianni ’95 lives in Kalamazoo and has children attending Kalamazoo Public Schools. She is thrilled that her children could be in the K classes of 2020 and 2025 respectively, thanks to The Kalamazoo Promise donors.