Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Charol Shakeshaft, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Jonathan Becker, J.D., Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Yvonne Brandon, Ed.D.

Fourth Advisor

Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, Ph.D.


Earning a college degree correlates with achieving financial security. Thus, improving an individual’s access to college is a key tactic used to mitigate poverty and foster intergenerational mobility. Despite the recognized value of higher education, earning a degree remains unattainable for many because of financial constraints. However, research definitively demonstrates that financial aid overcomes that obstacle. It also reveals that some program designs are more effective than others. The Kalamazoo Promise is a place-based scholarship program that offers four-year, full-tuition scholarships to residents who graduate from a Kalamazoo public high school. It is characterized by first-dollar and universal eligibility features, which are fundamental to designs that promote upward economic mobility. Leveraging a rapidly growing body of knowledge that links context (place) to upward mobility, this study examined the relationships between the Kalamazoo Promise, the place where it is based, and intergenerational mobility. My investigation focused on the interplay between the program design and its context. I examined changes, which emerged in the first five years after the program’s inception, in four Kalamazoo City characteristics that correlate with mobility. The study revealed increases in residential and school segregation by race and class, intense income inequality, elementary school quality that continued to lag behind the quality in neighboring communities despite improvements in test scores, and a reduction in family stability. These findings suggest that in the first five years the Kalamazoo Promise did not produce impacts to the context, in direction or magnitude, to improve intergenerational mobility. In the future, longitudinal research and mixed methods studies could add richness to our understanding of the people and place. In addition, changes to school assignment policies, modifications to the promise program design, and adjustments to employer recruitment/enticement programs are proposed.


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