Detroit Promise Path

Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can help address educational disparities. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve this outcome are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program basics

  • Provides Detroit Public Schools graduates with scholarships to attend local colleges tuition-free and provides students with a range of supports once they are enrolled.
  • Each of the five community colleges that partner with Detroit Promise Path have on-campus coaches that meet with every student twice per month for 15-30 minutes each. Coaches are also in frequent touch with students via phone calls, emails, and text messages.
  • Financial incentives of $50 per month are provided to students who meet with their on-campus coaches as directed.
  • Students are engaged by their mentors throughout the summer and are encouraged to enroll in summer courses or take on career-oriented jobs and internships
  • Created to supplement the original “Detroit Promise” program which covered the cost difference between financial aid and tuition for students for up to three years of attendance but did not provide support services.

Strength of evidence

Evidence level: Strong (second-highest tier)


Strong (second-highest tier)

Detroit Promise Path is not yet in any of the major clearinghouses but demonstrated positive results in an independent, high-quality evaluation conducted by MDRC

Target population

Students enrolled in post-secondary education

Program cost

Approximately $648 per student per year

Implementation locations

Dates active

2016 – present

Outcomes and impact

  • Increased student persistence in school
  • Increased full-time enrollment
  • Increased credit accumulation

Keys to successful implementation

  • Coaches act more as mentors than academic advisors, helping students manage competing responsibilities, adopt habits that help them succeed in school, and navigate personal issues.
  • Even with the Detroit Promise scholarship in place, many students continue to face financial aid issues, and missed tuition payments frequently lead to students being dropped from enrollment. Staff members should communicate clearly with students about financial aid deadlines and work closely with colleges to make sure Promise students are not dropped from classes.
  • A sophisticated relationship management system allows staff to track students and analyze participation, response rates, milestones, etc. This system also helps coaches stay engaged with students who have not yet enrolled in college, ensuring that the Promise program serves all eligible students.
  • Coaches first reach out to students in late summer by text and email. Persistent, proactive outreach increases both short and long term engagement with coaches.

Detroit Promise Path: Detroit, MI

Detroit Promise Path: Detroit, MI

Detroit Promise Path: Boosting community college persistence through intensive coaching and free tuition

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