Does Free College Work? Kalamazoo Offers Some Answers
Josh Mitchell and Michelle Hackman, The Wall Street Journal
In 2005, caught in a spiral of urban decay and a falling population, Kalamazoo embarked on a bold experiment to save itself. It would give local students free college tuition.
The program, funded by anonymous donors who pay the bill each year, kicked off a free-college movement that has gained traction across the U.S. More than 300 cities and states have some variety of free-tuition program, although most aren’t as generous.
Thirteen years after Kalamazoo’s program went into effect, some results are in. College enrollment has risen. Kalamazoo’s economy is stronger. So is a sense of community in a city that once had nearly lost hope. Yet city leaders have found the benefits of the Kalamazoo Promise go only so far.