Archive for September, 2012

Kalamazoo Promise featured in The New York Times Magazine

Posted on September 14, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

It’s nice to see the Kalamazoo Promise getting some of the attention it deserves in this excellent New York Times magazine article by Ted C. Fishman. I spent a great deal of time with Ted during his many visits to Kalamazoo to research the article, and I thought he did a great job capturing the nuances of the program even with a tight word limit (he told me that his first draft was about three times longer). It’s been fascinating to read the online comments posted today in response to the article. Apart from the occasional racist rant (more articulate here than on our local newspaper site), there are many wonderful observations about how the most privileged among us can use their wealth to make a difference. I especially enjoyed the story about the $60 million football stadium in a small Texas town; as I said in the article, the genius of the Kalamazoo Promise donors is their decision to invest in human capital rather than, say, a stadium (although a few of them may be interested in that, too). Here is the comment I shared online:

“As the author of (to date) the only book on the Kalamazoo Promise, I want to underscore two points to complement Ted Fishman’s excellent article. First, the universal nature of the Kalamazoo Promise — everyone is eligible to attend whatever school to which they can gain admission — is a radical approach to college financial aid and one that has had positive effects for students ranging all along the continuum of academic achievement. Second (and this may have been underplayed in the article), the Kalamazoo Promise has been embraced and owned by people throughout the community, even those without a direct stake in the educational system. The donors offered an extraordinary gift — an investment set up to continue in perpetuity. As a result, education has taken on the central role in our community’s identity and vision for the future, and all kinds of folks are taking ownership to ensure we make the most of this opportunity. ”

For those worried about whether the impact of the Kalamazoo Promise is being assessed in any systematic way, rest assured that my colleagues at the Upjohn Institute and other researchers around the nation are paying close attention. Check out my colleague Tim Bartik’s blog to read about some of this work.

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Making the Most of Those College Years

Posted on September 11, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I recently marked the 18th birthday of my nephew and the advent of his freshman year by compiling a list of ways he could make the most of his college years. The list, initially posted on Facebook, was then published on the wonderful blog Grown and Flown, operated in part by my lifelong friend, Lisa Endlich Heffernan, and appeared today in print in our local paper, The Kalamazoo Gazette. It is available online here. Two points I’d like to add: 1) do some kind of internship and 2) don’t have unprotected sex.

One very sad thing is the comments that follow the link above, many of them hostile toward professors, college students, and indeed the very idea of higher education. There are so many points to argue with in these posts that I’ve refrained, but I do want to say that college is by any reckoning a beneficial investment in one’s future, political science degrees have value in the workplace (check out our Grand Valley State University political science alumni if you doubt that!), and just because you didn’t go to college doesn’t mean you should denigrate it for others.

The whole experience has been a quick education in the ways of social media. The original Facebook version of my list benefited greatly from the generous contributions of many of my online friends, former students, and colleagues. The blog version received more than 1800 direct hits within a couple of weeks, giving me more readers than have read some of my published books. And the online commentary makes me long for the days when the newspaper published “all the news fit to print,” and if you wanted to weigh in on it you had to type up a letter and pony up for a stamp. A mixed bag, but I’m happy to have had my thoughts on this topic shared more widely — especially since my nephew is now at college, and judging from his Facebook photos I’m pretty sure he’s following none of this advice.

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