Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Gary Miron

Second Advisor

Dr. Jessica Spybrook

Third Advisor

Dr. Andrea Beach


The Kalamazoo Promise, a universal scholarship program announced in November 2005 provides four years of tuition and fees at any of Michigan's two- or fouryear public colleges or universities for students who have attended Kalamazoo Public Schools. This investment in the community is being replicated elsewhere across the nation, including Denver and Pittsburgh. The scholarship program lowers the cost of postsecondary education, thereby increasing incentives for high school graduation, college enrollment, and college completion. Of the 307 Kalamazoo Promise Scholarship recipients who have attended Western Michigan University since its inception, 16% have been academically dismissed.

The main objectives of this study were to: (1) examine persisters, those on probation, and non-persisters in terms of the Cognitive, Social and Institutional factors of retention, (2) examine persisters, those on probation, and non-persisters in terms of average courses taken per term and number of courses taken the first year and, (3) examine non-response bias in terms of respondents, late respondents, and nonrespondents.

Following are highlighted some of the key findings from the dissertation: Persisters had higher high school GPAs and higher ACT composite scores and were more likely to be White. Similarly, persisters took, on average, more courses per term and more courses the first year than either those on probation or non-persisters. As a contribution to research and evaluation, a number of different approaches were used to study potential non-response bias among scholarship recipients. Depending on the approach, small or insignificant differences in non-response bias were identified. Because non-response bias was minimal, the overall findings and conclusions were viewed as valid and did not need to be adjusted.

Various factors in the literature, such as parental income and living in a dorm, found to contribute to retention of students did not function as expected with this population. Also, the examination of non-response error and therefore possible nonresponse bias were extra steps taken to help ensure the quality of the generalizations being made. It is hoped that further research using these results as a benchmark will be conducted in order to more fully understand persistence and success of Kalamazoo Promise recipients.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access