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W.K. Kellogg Foundation Gives Promise to Detroit Youth

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The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) will provide $3.5 million over the next three years to help ensure that Detroit youth have the opportunity to pursue a college education and prepare for 21st century careers. This grant gives a significant boost to the $30 million campaign led by the Michigan Education Excellence Foundation (MEEF).

WKKF announcement

Sandy Baruah, President and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, introduces Kellogg Foundation Vice President Joe Scantlebury with Governor Rick Snyder, Mayor Mike Duggan, Detroit Promise Path college coach Ashley Robinson, and Oakland Community College student Johnathan Land.

A coalition that included Governor Rick Snyder and Mayor Mike Duggan gathered to recognize the leadership of the WWKF in funding Detroit Promise, a program that provides tuition and services to thousands of Detroit high school graduates as they pursue a college education.

These funds will help shepherd the program through a critical time of transition and development when the 2-year and 4-year scholarship program seeks to meet anticipated growth in demand and become over time self sustaining. It also will support efforts to enhance retention rates through, Detroit Promise Path, a college coaching effort focused on community college freshmen.

Detroit Promise has helped more than 2,200 students attend college since it was first developed under the leadership of Governor Rick Snyder and administered by the Detroit Regional Chamber Foundation.

Support from WKKF will ensure that the scholarship and supportive programs are fully developed and available to Detroit youth as public funding becomes available during the next couple of years under the Detroit Promise Zone, a tax capture program initiated by Mayor Mike Duggan.

Please contact MEEF if you are interested in donating to this effort.

Students have until June 30 to apply for the promise for the fall 2017 semester.  Students can apply at

See the following coverage:

$3.5M grant to fund Detroit Promise college scholarships, Detroit Free Press, May 1, 2017

Kellogg donates $3.5M to Detroit Promise college grant, The Detroit News, May 1, 2017

Multi-million dollar grant to support “Detroit Promise”, Dave Lewallen, Action 7 News, May 1, 2017.

Kellogg Foundation donates $3.5 million to Detroit Promise scholarship program, Crain’s Detroit Business, May 1, 2017‎

Foundation giving $3.5 million to scholarship program, Associated Press, May 1, 2017 and reprinted in: U.S. News and World Report,, and WWMT.

May 2, 2017


Detroit Promise Expansion Featured in News

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Governor Snyder, Mayor Duggan and others recently shared the accomplishments of the Detroit Promise with broad coverage by the Michigan media, see links below.

Detroit is the largest U.S. city to provide all of its students a chance to earn a college degree tuition-free. More than 700 students 2016 high school graduates are taking advantage of the program this year, and since 2013 over 2,000 students have attended one of five participating community colleges.

This year, the program is piloting two programs. One provides students who have attended Detroit schools for their entire education a chance to attend a Michigan public university including University of Michigan, Michigan State University and a number of others for four years tuition free.

Detroit Promise is also providing more than 250 community college attendees with a new coaching and wrap around support program this year to support their continuation with post-secondary education. Similar model programs have demonstrated positive results in both student retention and graduation in other regions of the United States.

MEEF seeks to raise $25 million to continue these two new programs and support the Detroit Promise through its successful launch as required under the Promise Zone legislation. Give today online at:

See the following coverage:

Free tuition for Detroiters to add 4-year universities, Ann Zaniewski, Detroit Free Press, November 29, 2016

Students benefit from Detroit Promise program, Christine Ferretti, Detroit News, November 29, 2016

Detroit Promise program expands to include 4 years of free college for students, Ingrid Kelly, Fox 2 Detroit, November 29, 2016

“Detroit Promise” Program Expands to Include 4-Year Universities, Bre’Anna Tinsley on “All Things Considered,” WDET, November 28, 2016

Tuition-free, four year college now available to Detroit high school students, Staff reporters, Daily Detroit, November 28, 2016

Governor and Mayor announce pilot to expand Detroit Promise college scholarship program to four-year colleges & universities, A.J. Williams, Michigan Chronicle Online, November 28, 2016

Detroit students can earn 4-year bachelor’s degree tuition-free, Dave Bartkowiak Jr., WDIV Detroit, November 28, 2016

Gov. Snyder, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan launch the registration period for 2017 Detroit Promise, Curtis Jackson, Taking Action News, WXYZ, November 28, 2016 ‎

Mayor to launch Detroit Promise registration for tuition-free community college, Dana Alana, MLive Detroit, ‎November 29, 2016‎

Over 830 Detroit youth attend college tuition free

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shutterstock_172074791The Detroit News featured the MEEF supported Detroit Promise program in a recent article noting that 833 Detroit high school graduates received scholarships for a tuition free path to college. The article explored two important new initiatives for the 2016-2017 school year:

(1) Four-year tuition free paths for 293 Detroit high school graduates

For the first time. Detroit Promise will support students at University of Michigan, Michigan State University  and a number of other public Michigan universities enrolled in four year degree programs. This pilot program will continue next year as well.

(2) Coaching and Support for 250+ community college attendees

This year, Detroit Promise Path will offer additional coaching and supports to roughly half of the 540 scholarship recipients attending two-year programs at participating community colleges. More than 250 community college students will be enrolled in the program to see if these supportive efforts will improve their chances of graduating. Similar model programs have demonstrated positive results in both student retention and graduation in other regions of the United States.

If successful, MEEF will work to expand both of these initiatives to benefit Detroit high school graduates in the future under the Detroit Promise program.

See “Program gives Detroit students path to 4-year colleges,” by Kim Kozlowski, The Detroit News, September 25, 2016.

For more information and to apply to Detroit Promise, visit

Detroit Promise Welcomes 715 Scholarship Students

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Over a hundred college bound students were welcomed on August 11 in a celebration as they prepare to attend college with support from the Detroit Promise scholarship, a key program supported by MEEF. The program, administered by the Detroit Regional Chamber, guarantees a tuition-free path to a participating college or university to qualifying Detroit high school graduates.

This year, over 700 Detroit graduates will attend tuition free: 200 are registered to attend a four year Michigan University and another 515 plan to attend one of five participating colleges in Southeast Michigan.

“It’s a wonderful achievement to be a Detroit Promise scholar. The program will alleviate the financial pressure of paying for college and allow me to concentrate on my school work,” said Brandy Beckwell, a graduate of Renaissance High School who plans to study public relations at Michigan State University. “I hope to take the support the Detroit Promise has given me, not only financially but emotionally, and to give back to the community and city that I love,” she said.

Following the presentations, students met with representatives from Eastern Michigan University, Michigan State University, Oakland University, University of Michigan, UM-Dearborn, University of Detroit Mercy, and Western Michigan University to learn about student success programs that will support their transition to college. These programs are an important part of helping Detroit youth stay in school and complete their degree. MEEF provides support for the college success programs at participating community colleges, while the Universities provide their own programs.

See coverage by the Detroit Regional Chamber for more details.

MEEF Supported Detroit Promise, An Impactful Program

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meef-logo-finalAccording to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, the MEEF supported program is one of the top ways the city is helping its youth secure a better future:

“There is no greater gateway to success than education. Perhaps the most impactful program we have initiated is the Detroit Promise, which provides two years of tuition-free college for graduates of any Detroit high school — whether private, public, or charter.”

He wrote these words in a June 2016 article for CNN Money Magazine. Read the whole article “How Detroit plans to help the city’s black youth succeed” online at

Detroit Promise Featured by White House

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The MEWhite houseEF supported Detroit Promise was featured in a recent White House factsheet. The Detroit scholarship program was featured as one of 27 communities that has committed to making tuition-free community college education available to resident students this past year.

“Every American, whether they’re young or just young at heart, should be able to earn the skills and education necessary to compete and win in the 21st century economy.” – President Barack Obama

The White House also announced its plan to offer 100 million in grants under the America’s Promise Job-Driven Training to connect more Americans to education and in-demand jobs.


Detroit is making first two years of college free

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The Detroit Promise Scholarship was featured in a RYOT media video.


RYOT wrote:

“Two years of college education just became free for high school students in Detroit.

The city has announced that high school graduates will be given two years of free college tuition at a community college to help aid students aspiring for a higher education.

‘We are making a promise to every single student who graduates from a high school in Detroit,’ Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said.

The funding will come from the Detroit College Promise program that is run by the Detroit Public Schools Foundation.

How will the program provide free college education for every high school graduate in the city?

The program plans to appropriate the city’s property taxes to fund eligible students’ college education — considering that free education would encourage more people to pursue a college degree.

Many students drop out of school or do not proceed to get a college degree after high school because they are unable to afford the high costs tied with a college education.

According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center , households headed by a college educated person have a higher average income than those that are headed by non-college educated persons.

It doesn’t help that student debt is unfathomably huge in the country. The same Pew study found that people who have no student debts tend to have a higher net worth than others.

This program may be a step in the right direction to ensure that these kids have better opportunities in the future.”

Detroit Promise will solidify MEEF scholarship program

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shutterstock_172074791Building on a MEEF supported scholarship program, Detroit establishes a Promise Zone to assure that every high school graduate from the city will be guaranteed two years of tuition-free college education.

The Detroit Promise Zone Authority, established by Mayor Mike Duggan and the Detroit City Council, will set aside a portion of revenue growth from property taxes to permanently fund the scholarships starting in 2018.

The Michigan Education Excellence Foundation (MEEF) will secure private funding to support the scholarship program over the next two years as required under the 2009 Michigan Promise Zone statute. MEEF funding established the Detroit Scholarship Fund, administered by the Detroit Regional Chamber, with private dollars three years ago. Since 2013, the scholarship has helped over 1,500 Detroit high school graduates attend community college, tuition-free.

The program is a “last-dollar” scholarship, meaning students apply for all available financial aid including Pell grants and the scholarship then covers any tuition and mandatory fees not covered.

Eligible students must live in Detroit and complete their junior and senior years at a high school in the city. There is no minimum grade point average set, however students can only receive the scholarships if they are accepted into a participating post-secondary program. Five community colleges are participating in metro Detroit: Henry Ford Community College, Wayne County Community College District, Schoolcraft College, Macomb Community College and Oakland Community College.

MEEF is also funding a pilot project to cover four years of tuition for Detroit graduates who are accepted at participating Michigan universities and community colleges. To date, nearly every public university and community college in Michigan has opted to participate in the four-year scholarship pilot.

Students must register for the scholarship and submit a free application for Federal Student Aid by June 30. For more information, visit If Detroit high schoolers have already applied with the Detroit Scholarship Fund, then they do not have to reapply.

Selected articles on the Detroit Promise Zone Announcement:

Detroit Free Press: Detroit high school grads to get tuition-free college

Detroit News: Detroit solidifies free college degree program

Crain’s Detroit Business: New program will send Detroit high school grads to college for free

Channel 7, ABC News: Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announces student funding program called Detroit Promise

Channel 2. Fox News: Duggan announces Detroit Promise: two years of free college

Factsheet on Detroit Promise Zone


Fordham Institute Report on Education Reform Includes EAA

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Redefining the School District in America_CoverThe Thomas B. Fordham Institute recently released a report that focuses on a number of school reform districts across the nation, including the Education Achievement Authority of Michigan (EAA). ‘Redefining the School District in America’ offers a status update of EAA’s progress since it experienced a change in leadership with the appointment of Veronica Conforme as Chancellor in 2014.

Link To ‘Redefining the School District in America’

Below are some key highlights:

Page 16
The Authority is still walking on eggshells politically, but vigorous and candid new leadership is giving it a chance at success. While keeping a generally low profile during her early months in office, [Conforme] set about recruiting new talent for the central office and took steps to counter the perception of loose financial and ethical standards. This was accomplished by tightening up the rules on use of EAA credit cards and setting up an ethics hotline where staff and community members can report “improper contractor activity, conflict of interest, and EEOC or ADA matters.

On one critical measure of operational performance, Conforme was able to report in October that actual enrollment for the current school year would total approximately 6,500 students, slightly exceeding the EAA’s budget projection and stemming the precipitous drop that followed year one.

The tempo and depth of change picked up quickly after Conforme was named chancellor in November.

Page 17
In an interview, Conforme said “everything is on the table” in terms of school management; her main concern is getting talented leadership. That could be done directly through hiring and developing school principals (she’s already replaced three) or via charter contracts that would bring in top-caliber talent through another door…When the decisions are made, the EAA will consider both academic outcomes (not just test scores, but also graduation rates and other measures) as well as leadership and school climate. Conforme said of the twelve direct-run schools, “They are making progress, but not fast enough, and we need to consider making changes that will accelerate the rate of student achievement.”

That comment is telling. Recently Conforme has repeatedly expressed, in blunt terms, her impatience with the pace of improvement in EAA schools. This is a sea change in the Authority’s public disposition. When confronted with stagnant or declining scores on the MEAP, Michigan’s state test, her predecessor would cite internal Performance Series assessments, which did show some growth—an average of 1.1 years of gain in Covington’s final school year. But Conforme simply says that the rate of improvement is unacceptable, period. Despite “some clear successes” and visible improvements in safety and learning environments, “student achievement has not improved at a fast enough pace.”

The EAA is developing a new suite of accountability measures, including a quantitative performance framework and a new School Quality Review, and creating new support networks to serve schools from a streamlined central office. The central office team is currently reviewing the Authority’s entire assessment program and will soon disclose which instruments will stay or go, but Conforme is emphatic that administrators and principals have to consider proficiency and not just growth. Interim tests can’t serve as the only benchmark: “You have to have both!”

On February 17, 2015, the chancellor announced sweeping new policies that will give all EAA schools, charter and state-run, additional autonomy over programs, resources, and professional development. Rather than following a single, centrally designed and mandated school model, building leaders will be able to chart their own path toward the Authority’s outcome standards…

EAA’s Achievement Leaders Academy, through a partnership with the nonprofit TNTP, will provide training for school leaders who will take the reins of EAA schools in the 2015–16 school year (and longer-term, to “create a pipeline of skilled candidates to run Detroit’s schools for years to come”).

Page 19
A roughly 25 percent drop in enrollment after the EAA’s first year drew headlines. Little noticed was that it followed historic trends for the schools taken over: Between 2007–08 and 2013–14, enrollment at EAA schools declined by an average of 13 percent per year. Enrollment stabilized between the 2013–14 school year and the current one, according to preliminary numbers. And while all fifteen EAA schools saw enrollment decline between 2012–13 and 2013–14, six schools saw enrollment increases between 2013–14 and 2014–15.

Though academic turnarounds take time, efforts to create a healthier school climate seem to be paying off. According to surveys conducted by the nonprofit Excellent Schools Detroit, the percentage of students who reported feeling mostly or very safe in their classrooms increased from 56 percent to 64 percent between 2012–13 and 2013–14.

There’s more encouraging news on the graduation front. Graduation rates across the EAA’s six high schools took a serious dip in the first year after takeover, dropping from a four-year average of 64 percent in 2011–12 to 54 percent in 2012–13, its first full year overseeing the schools. But there was significant recovery in the EAA’s second year, with the four-year rate moving back up to 62 percent in 2013–14.

In April, State Superintendent Mike Flanagan announced that two EAA schools (direct-run Brenda Scott Academy for Theatre Arts, and Trix Elementary, a charter school) would be among twenty-seven schools removed from the state’s roster of Priority schools in the bottom 5 percent.

For now, EAA’s attention seems focused tightly on getting the ship moving ahead toward demonstrably higher achievement.

First Lady Michelle Obama Attends Detroit’s First College Signing Day

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First Lady Michelle Obama waves with her arm aroundWhen first lady Michelle Obama became a freshmen at Princeton University in New Jersey, the Chicago native couldn’t figure out what classes to take or which building they were in. She was overwhelmed and lonely.

But she took a few deep breaths and made a plan. Obama found an adviser, made lifelong friends at the university multicultural center, attended classes every day and studied as hard as she could.

“So here’s my message: If I can do it, man, so can you,” said Obama, whose parents didn’t go to college. “I am like you! There’s no magic here. I didn’t get here because I was rich or famous or had important people looking out for me. I got there because I worked hard. And if you got into college, you have everything you need to get through college.”

Obama shared her story Friday to 2,000 high school students from 40 Detroit schools at the city’s first College Signing Day.

The first lady chose to appear at Wayne State University in Detroit to encourage students to enroll and graduate from a higher education institution as part of her Reach Higher initiative an effort launched last year to inspire young people to take charge of their future by pursuing and completing education past high school.

Her visit came as President Barack Obama has called for America to again attain the distinction of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. In 1990, the United States ranked No. 1 in the world in four-year degree attainment among 25- to 34-year-olds. But 25 years later, the nation ranks 12th.

Clad in a T-shirt from her alma matter, Mrs. Obama told the crowd that very few people get signed for professional sports teams, and higher education is the path to success.

She told the students they also need a plan, find some mentors, get involved on campus and land an internship.

Most important, she told the students to ask for help when they needed it.

“If you all do all this, you will succeed,” Obama said. “I know you will. You will get that degree. And with that degree you will have the key to building the life of your dreams. This is the answer.”

After she spoke, many said she inspired them.

Tamia Russell, an Osborn High School student who plans to go into the Army after graduation, said it was an honor for Obama to come to Detroit and support the Class of 2015.

“I loved how she related herself to us,” Russell said, “saying she was once in our shoes, and we can do it.”

Added Catera Walker, a Detroit Community High School student planning to attend Henry Ford Community College: “She was so inspiring. She knows people are trying. The best part? When she told us, ‘Don’t give up.’

This is an important issue in Detroit, which has one the lowest rates for college attendance in Michigan. Additionally, the state lags in graduation rates, with only about half of the 300,000 students who enroll in the 15 public universities graduating in six years. The national average is 59 percent.

Joining the first lady to fire up the crowd was Jim Harbaugh, University of Michigan head football coach. He told the students he was proud that they had made the decision to go to college.

“But this is just the beginning,” Harbaugh said. “Find something you love, are passionate about and pursue it with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind!”

His two pieces of advice: “Onward! Have at it!”

Also joining Obama was Ciara, the Grammy-award-winning singer and education advocate. She told the students that being educated empowers people.

“Dreams are possible if we believe,” Ciara said. “Your dreams really start and end in you. Where you can go in life really starts with you.”

Besides Obama’s event in Detroit, 600 other College Signing Day events were held across the nation. Education Secretary Arne Duncan attended an event in Washington, D.C., while Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro attended an event in Austin, Texas.

Students started arriving at Wayne State around 7 a.m. and were greeted by marching bands, music and tight security.

Many were clad in college T-shirts, as Obama asked them to wear.

JacQueline Fields — a senior at Pershing High School in Detroit who plans to go to Wayne County Community College — said it never a question about whether she would go to college after high school.

“You don’t get that far in life without an education,” said Fields, 18.

By Kim Kozlowski, The Detroit News

Contact Kim Kozlowski: