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Lake County's "promise" to make college affordable for low-income families

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College is expensive. For some families, it’s prohibitively expensive. Several school districts are trying to follow the Kalamazoo Promisemodel by offering students money to help cover tuition costs. Jennifer Guerra with our State of Opportunity project introduces us to one such "promise" in rural northern Michigan's Lake County.

If you had asked Lake County high school senior Kaitlyn Bolles last fall to describe her thoughts on college, she’d describe it as "a dirt road with lots of bumps." Translation? "I don’t feel like I’m ready, I don’t feel like I can handle it, I don’t feel like I can afford it, and I don’t feel like I’m smart enough to go right now," explains Bolles.

Bolles has spent most of her life in the village of Baldwin in central northern Michigan’s Lake County. The bubbly 18-year old loves it here and she’s very close with her family. Since there’s no higher ed option in Lake County, she would have to move, which can be scary. Not to mention the cost. Lake County is the poorest county in Michigan; paying for college is out of reach for many families here.

"[The Baldwin Promise] makes me want to go to college, makes me not so scared that I can't afford it. It takes some stress off." - Kaitlyn Bolles, student

But when Bolles found out about her school’s Baldwin Promise, which guarantees each senior up to $20,000 for four years of college, that bumpy dirt road she calls the path to college started to look a little smoother:

"To know that I have that money it...makes me want to go to college, makes me not so scared that I can’t afford it," says Bolles. "It takes some stress off, kind of."

To hear more about the Baldwin Promise - how it works, how successful it is - and meet others who are taking advantage of the scholarship funds, go to our State of Opportunity website.

Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and was one of the lead reporters on the award-winning education series Rebuilding Detroit Schools. Prior to working at Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station in the Bronx.
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