Thursday, July 09, 2015

Make a promise.

The positive correlations between educational attainment and economic mobility are clear. But the rising cost of higher education makes getting a college degree seem more challenging for the very people who need it most. I say "seem" because while the list price of a college education has increased dramatically, the actual cost for students from families with low or moderate income has not changed much. How can we ensure those student see college as attainable and worth the effort? Make a promise.

Promise communities have a place-based scholarships that fund all or part of every child's higher education expenses.  The benefits include:

  • Increased economic vitality in the community
  • Increased enrollment in local schools
  • Increased enrollment in and completion of college
  • Improved elementary and high school academic performance
As you can imagine, these efforts can be expensive, particularly in larger cities like Kalamazoo, MI, and even in smaller ones like Arkadelphia or El Dorado, AR, But in very small towns, ensuring every high school graduate has a chance to get to and through college may not cost as much as you think. 

In very small, low wealth communities, many of the students will qualify for significant need based financial aid like Pell Grants. And if students receive academic and other scholarships as well, they may be able to cover much of their tuition on their own so that the promise scholarship is only responsible for gap funding. In these communities a well off, though not necessarily wealthy, individual may be able to make a life changing difference for people in her hometown.  

So consider working with a local community foundation or other entity to make a promise in your community.  It can be a game changer for the people and community you love. 

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