By Alex Carey
The last thing most college students want to think about is student loans: that haunting, gruesome, ugly lump of money just waiting to get paid back after college. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, total student loan debt in the United States has risen to over $1 trillion as of 2014.
Albion College has recently entered a program that will help relieve student loan debt for some incoming students. Starting for the 2015-2016 academic year, Albion will enroll its first group of Kalamazoo Promise students. The Promise will cover anywhere between 65 and 100 percent of the students’ tuition just because they’re graduating from a Kalamazoo public school.
The Kalamazoo Promise, established in 2005, is a program that gives Kalamazoo district high school graduates the opportunity to attend certain public universities and now, as of this year, private colleges in Michigan with no cost to them. The students pick a college or university of their choice and anonymous donors pay for their tuition.
In order to receive full tuition, a student has to have been enrolled in the Kalamazoo public school system since kindergarten. Each year an individual is absent from the system, the benefit decreases.
For example, a student who has been enrolled since the 4th grade would get 85% of his or her tuition covered. The later a student joins the system, the more the benefit decreases. The minimum amount of benefit is 65%. This is given to students who attended grades 9 through 12. No benefit is given to students who attended Kalamazoo public schools only during their sophomore, junior and senior years of high school.
Robert Bartlett, president of the Michigan Colleges Alliance (MCA), is excited about the addition of Albion, along with the 14 other private universities in the alliance, to the Kalamazoo Promise program.
“Small colleges versus public universities is a choice for students that will benefit them,” Bartlett said. “It enhances higher education that is now dominated by public universities. It brings smaller campuses into the limelight.”
The Albion Admission Center has hopes of its own, with the addition of the Kalamazoo Promise. Due to its proximity (Kalamazoo is about 47 miles away from Albion), there is a great opportunity for a partnership between Kalamazoo and Albion College.
Albion admission counselor Amanda Skinner explained further.
“The admission staff’s goal for the upcoming year is to increase the number of students that visit, apply and enroll at Albion College from Kalamazoo Public Schools,” Skinner said.
According to Mandy Dubiel, Albion College Director of Admissions, the college is still working out logistics for the program funding for the following school year.
“Currently, the Promise will fund about $7,000 [per student] and we are committed to covering the rest of the tuition and fees that will be charged to the student,” Dubiel said. “Our portion will come from the student’s merit scholarship and other Albion grants/scholarships.”
With the addition of the Kalamazoo Promise, Albion College hopes to attract a larger pool of students from the Kalamazoo area. The MCA also has hopes to create a bigger name for small liberal arts schools when it comes to the students’ choices for higher education.
Photo by Alex Carey