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Kresge awards $2.5M through CoPro2.0 initiative to strengthen tuition-free community college across U.S.

American Cities, Detroit, Education, Human Services

College Promise announced as the CoPro2.0’s initiative’s managing partner of operations and knowledge sharing

The Kresge Foundation’s Education Program today announced a suite of grants totaling more than $2.5 million dedicated to helping shape free college across the United States. The iCoPro2.0 initiative, short for College Promise 2.0, will fund 11 grantees focused on research and programming, and scaling the next generation of equitable, financially sustainable community college promise programs, or “free college.”

College Promise, a national bipartisan organization launched in 2015 by President Obama, will serve as the initiative’s managing partner.

CoPro2.0 grants will fund projects from the following organizations:

College promise programs have proliferated over the past decade, expanding from 53 in 2015 to 368 local and statewide programs serving nearly 500,000 students today. The Biden-Harris Administration has signaled its support for free community college and proposed it as a part of the Build Back Better Act. It was eventually cut from the Reconciliation Bill and while momentum for national adoption remains, there is little consensus over best practices. Despite the rapid expansion of the free college movement, evidence on programs’ effectiveness remains unclear.

“While the growing momentum around adopting free college programs is progress in the right direction, more needs to be done to make these programs equitable, effective and financially sustainable for cities and states considering their own versions of free college,” said Kresge Program Officer Ed Smith, a published scholar on the topic of free college programs. “Promise programs, if strengthened, offer a framework to serve students, colleges, communities and the nation as a whole by facilitating the credential attainment needed to increase global competitiveness and social mobility.”

How the initiative works

The suite of awarded CoPro2.0 grants align with the following three streams of focus:

  • Program innovations to facilitate partnerships that enhance or expand services, reimagine eligibility criteria, and catalyze the expansion of college-level reforms.
  • Research on financial sustainability to investigate public-private financing partnerships and innovative financial models that foreground program viability, while sharpening equity.
  • Strategic and implementation assistance to support states and cities considering free college programs and/or to help respond to the changing federal policy environment.

In funding the 11 projects, Kresge aims to identify, support, and disseminate targeted approaches that College Promise practitioners can use to catalyze improvements in student success systems and make postsecondary educational pathways more equitable.

College Promise will monitor and support the implementation of the initiative, facilitate learning exchanges and larger convenings, and produce reports and briefs. Working together, Kresge, College Promise and the initiative’s grantees anticipate forging strong connections between promise programs and state and federal policymakers, with the goal of enabling the exchange of actionable information.

“College Promise is honored to serve as the CoPro2.0 Managing Partner alongside The Kresge Foundation,” said Martha Kanter, CEO, College Promise. “We look forward to working closely with the inaugural Promise program grantees to shape more equitable and financially sustainable programs while building accessible pathways for students to and through postsecondary education and careers.”

How the initiative is funded

CoPro2.0 is funded through a cross-foundation effort led by Kresge’s Education Program, in partnership with Kresge’s Human Services, Detroit and American Cities Programs.
The Education Program works to increase college access and success while reducing inequitable student outcomes in the U.S. and South Africa. The American Cities Program seeks to expand opportunity by promoting effective and inclusive community development practices in American cities. The Human Services Program centers racial equity to advance social and economic mobility for families and communities. The Detroit Program collaborates with cross-sectoral partners to promote and expand long-term, equitable opportunity in Kresge’s hometown by centering the priorities of its residents.

Visit to learn more about the initiative and individual grantees.