David Mann was born in raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan. His parents would have had a difficult time paying for college had he
lived in any other city.
Now a Ferris State University sophomore and offensive tackle for the school’s football team, David’s family encouraged him to attend college and pursue his sports marketing dreams. But it wasn’t until the fall of 2005, when the Kalamazoo School District unveiled the Kalamazoo Promise, that that dream became a reality.
The Kalamazoo Promise is a pledge by the district to pay the college tuition for any graduate who got accepted at any of the state’s 59 colleges or universities. Made possible by a generous donation from a group of anonymous, local philanthropists, the Promise offered to pay 100% of tuition for students who went through its entire school system and a proportional amount for those who attended fewer grade.
Upon hearing about this program, David’s parents were ecstatic over this unexpected offer that would have such a positive impact on their family’s future. David tells the story:
“I remember my mom being in tears, crying, because she did not know how she was going to pay for me to go college, and my parents didn’t really know how they were going to do it, and then when it was announced, they realized, ‘Wow, I’m not going to have to make so many sacrifices for you to go to school.’”
David’s mother was elated because she would not have to assume the majority of the financial burden in order for her son to attend college. Her moving words demonstrate the positive and immediate impact the Kalamazoo Promise had on its community. How often can you say a government program has brought you to tears because of the awesome fruit it will bear in your life?
Now that college was a given, all David had to do was succeed in high school in order to make sure thathe was able to capitalize on the Kalamazoo Promise. In fact, the program encouraged all of David’s classmates to do their best in high school because they knew there was an avenue for them to pursue higher education regardless of cost: “I know friends back home that are going to community college that wouldn’t be going to college if it wasn’t for the Promise.”
The Kalamazoo Promise has allowed thousands of its community’s children to pursue higher education and advanced technical skills training by eliminating the cost of paying for education as a determining factor as to whether or not attending college is realistic.
We owe every student in every generation the same chance David Mann got. Just because one generation has gone to college is no guarantee that the next will be able to attend as well.
David’s father, Greg Mann, a retired official from the Michigan State Legislature, had attended college and acquired his degree.
Growing up, Greg served as a role model and resource to help David navigate the journey to higher education.
When Greg was David’s age, he took advantage of the Evans Scholars Foundation, a scholarship fund set up for golf caddies to
attend college. “Sponsored by the Western Golf Association,” says Greg, “the Evans
Scholars Foundation has helped more than 10,600 caddies attend college since its creation in 1930.” This special program for golf caddies allowed David’s father to pursue his dreams of
higher education at a time when the cost of college was more reasonable (Greg’s tuition was less than $400 a semester). Because of this program, Greg was able to move from his working class background into the American middle class.
Greg and David Mann are an intergenerational example of how both private scholarship funds and public programs can help Americans achiever their dreams of a college education. Whereas Greg was able to take advantage of a program designed for people in his profession, David was lucky to be born in a forward thinking city that was making an investment in its economic future by making sure that it would have a skilled and educated labor force. Their story makes it clear that the way forward to making higher education accessible to all is to get any and all parties – from local governments all the way to amateur sports organizations – involved.
However, getting everyone involved in paying for college is not enough. Bringing down the price of tuition must also be a priority because every dollar, public or private, will go that much farther if the cost of paying for college is that much lower. We must increase the value of an education, not its cost.
And that’s why David and Greg are now also supporters of The Campaign For Free College Tuition – an organization that fights for all students to be given the chance for a free college education.
Our goal is to make higher education a possibility for every American, without regard to their financial circumstances.
We have a lot to do and not much time to do it, so your support is critical for our campaign to succeed. It’s with your investment that we can fundamentally reform how higher education is financed in this country, opening the doors to a more equitable society.
If you agree with our goal, our plan, and the urgency of the problem, we ask that you give what you can to help us write the next chapter in our nation’s history of continuously expanding access to universal, free education.