Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Thomas Van Valey

Second Advisor

Dr. Douglas Davidson

Third Advisor

Dr. Joseph Kretovics


Kalamazoo Promise, education reform policy, education reform, urban education, African American education


Since 2006, all of the public school graduates in Kalamazoo Michigan have been entitled to have their tuition and fees paid for to any post-secondary institution in the state. The scholarship program is called the Kalamazoo Promise, and it utilizes scholarships as a means to stimulate region-wide economic vitality. The Kalamazoo public school district reflects many metropolitans in the U.S. by having a minority majority, in which African Americans make up the largest single ethnic group. This evaluation of the Kalamazoo Promise is unique in that it focuses specifically on perspectives from the African American community. 35 interviews were conducted with African American students and 33 also were conducted with parents of African American, Promise-eligible youth.

All of the data was collected and analyzed by a product of Kalamazoo Public Schools (Loy Norrix, class of 1988) that also happens to be an African American. The way that the local African American community responds to the Promise is dependent upon their understanding of the Promise; their understanding is based upon the ways the Promise represented to them. Combined with analysis of relative literature and the dominant discourse, the data reveals that there is cultural change taking place in Kalamazoo. The most significant changes inspired by the Promise appear to concern motivational measures. The Kalamazoo Promise facilitates effective change because its approach is systemic. Over time, the Kalamazoo Promise provides concrete motivation to counter the systemic oppression that sets the African American experience.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access