POLICY BRIEF: What Can States Learn from Local College Promise Programs?
Since the Tennessee Promise was launched in 2014, statewide tuition-free college scholarships, often called College Promise programs, have proliferated. These programs are distinct from an earlier generation of merit-based scholarship programs, such as the Georgia Hope Scholarship, in that they seek to make at least two years of college tuition-free for a broad segment of a state’s young people.
Current state-level College Promise programs differ from each other in ways large and small, but they have similar goals—to make post-secondary education more affordable, to address gaps in college attendance by race and socioeconomic status, and to prepare an educated workforce to meet a state’s economic needs. Most of these programs are too new to have yielded many results, and the variation among programs makes it difficult to generalize about impact. However, a body of evidence already exists that can inform state policymakers—a decade-plus of research into the structure and impact of local College Promise programs.
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Dr. Michelle Miller-Adams is a senior researcher at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and a professor of political science at Grand Valley State University. She is the author of two books on the Kalamazoo Promise and the national Promise movement and is a member of the College Promise Research Network steering committee.
This policy brief is based in part on a featured policy talk at the 44th annual conference of the Association for Education Finance and Policy (AEFP) held in Kansas City on March 21, 2019. Participants included Celeste Carruthers of the University of Tennessee, Krissy DeAlejandro of tnAchieves, Susan Dynarski of the University of Michigan, Brad Hershbein of the W.E. Upjohn Institute, and Robyn Hiestand of the College Promise Campaign.