Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Laura W. Perna


College promise programs are spreading across the nation as more communities and states adopt them to increase educational attainment and economic development. Yet, the rapid proliferation of promise programs has preceded a nuanced investigation of the forces that inform their designs and how such designs influence college-going within their service areas. This exploratory embedded case study deepens the conceptual understanding of the forces that influence the formation and potential modification of place-based college scholarship programs by drawing on qualitative insights from 52 stakeholders affiliated with three promise zones in the state of Michigan. The study sheds light on how program leaders craft student eligibility criteria, why they may change these criteria after program adoption, how they determine scholarship provision (e.g., first- or last-dollar disbursement, award amounts), and the potential mechanisms by which programs’ benefits influence college-going patterns within their service areas. Among several salient findings, fiscal conditions within the promise zone, fundraising challenges, and negative perceptions of the related school district appear to sway program leadership to consider design changes that make the programs more targeted and/or choice-restrictive for students over time. The dissertation concludes with implications for policy, theory, research, and practice.


Available to all on Saturday, September 09, 2023

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