Kalamazoo Update

By Germanm

Sep 11, 2006 9:27am

Correspondent Dean Reynolds blogs about the response to Wednesday’s story about one city’s promise of free college tuition: The Kalamazoo Gazette tells me Wednesday’s story had a pretty big impact. [WATCH] That’s always gratifying for a reporter. And this story really deserves coverage. Last November, when we heard about the Kalamazoo Promise, it had just been unveiled to a disbelieving community. But because it was in the Midwest — instead of the media-heavy East — it didn’t get the national exposure it was due. The Promise is the soul of simplicity: every kid who graduates from Kalamazoo Public Schools can have a free tuition ride at any state university or community college in Michigan. The idea is to draw businesses into what has been a city in decline, to improve the school system, and to generally give everyone in Kalamazoo a little skip in their step. Our first story about the promise last year barely scratched the surface. But last week’s follow-up attempted to show the real, tangible impact and the potential affects for the city. Real estate is booming, corporations are considering relocating to the town, and enrollment at public schools is increasing. Frankly, the first thing you see is that everybody in town is smiling. Certainly the town’s officials are pleased. They are seen by voters as quite influential, though it was this anonymous group of philanthropists who really made the dream happen. Ask around town and you get a lot of guesses as to who the benefactors are. Baseball great Derek Jeter is a Kalamazoo high school grad, so he’s one suspect. The Upjohn pharmaceutical enterprise used to be located in Kalamazoo, so there is an idea that some Upjohn heirs may be behind the promise. But those who know aren’t saying. And those who are talking don’t know.

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