The Detroit Promise allows the city’s high school graduates to attend local colleges tuition-free. To that existing scholarship the Detroit Promise Path adds campus coaches, monthly financial support, enhanced summer engagement, and messages informed by behavioral science. Early findings from the first year are positive.


The Detroit Promise, administered by the Detroit Regional Chamber, allows the city’s high school graduates to attend local colleges tuition-free. The community college scholarship program covers any difference between financial aid and tuition for up to three years at five area community colleges: Henry Ford College, Macomb Community College, Oakland Community College, Schoolcraft College, and Wayne County Community College. Although the program helps Detroit’s students enroll in college, too few stay in school and graduate. To improve students’ academic outcomes, the Chamber and MDRC partnered to create the Detroit Promise Path, which adds four components to the existing scholarship program: campus coaches who help students navigate academic and personal issues; monthly financial support contingent on meeting with coaches; enhanced summer engagement; and monitoring and messages informed by behavioral science through a management information system created by MDRC. These evidence-based strategies come from MDRC’s experience designing and evaluating community college programs, and MDRC provided extensive technical assistance to set up the program, develop cost-effective management strategies, and ensure successful operation.