Kent State gives free tuition to LeBron James’ I PROMISE School students


At an assembly last week, President Todd Diacon asked students in the I PROMISE network to look under their seats. They found this certificate, guaranteeing free tuition with room and board. Tankersley compared this to an episode of Oprah. 

Wyatt Loy Reporter

Kent State announced Wednesday that, as part of its partnership with LeBron James’ I PROMISE School (IPS), it would be giving free college tuition to their students, including one year of free room and board.

“The partnership started a few years ago, when LeBron James’ school was just getting started,” said Melody Tankersley, interim senior vice president and provost. “They came to us and said they wanted to make sure their oldest group, who were ninth graders at the time, were ready for college, ready for careers, ready for that next step.”

The university then brainstormed ways to academically prepare students to come to Kent State, Tankersley said, which gave rise to the summer enrichment program.

“The students came here during the summer for three weeks, they lived on campus for those three weeks,” Tankersley said. “During that time, they did six hours of programming every day, especially in math and reading.”

She explained students were exposed to various career options.

“We wanted to make their world as broad as possible,” Tankersley said. “They flew drones, worked with graphic communications, they did performance art, just a lot of exploring.”

The program also offered students all of the amenities of Kent campus, Tankersley said, including a dive-in theater, where students sat on rafts in the Beverly J. Warrent Student Wellness Center pools and watched movies.

The program yielded results. Tankersley found students who attended the program “raised their ACT scores by 10 or 11 percent.”

“These students have become very special to us,” she said. “We welcome first-generation students, like me. No one in my family had attended college.”

According to a press release, the IPS has a “focus on communication, habits of promise, belonging and sense of community.” A focus that, Tankersley said, Kent State plans to iterate upon.

“We’ve been talking about utilizing First-Year Experience classes where students will have a way to see each other each week, there’s a sense of community there for that,” she said. “We’ve also talked about creating a Living Learning Community where students will live in the same rooms, or on the same floor in a different hallway.”

The first cohort of 193 freshman students will come to Kent State in the 2021-22 school year. In order to keep their scholarship, they must take a certain amount of credit hours each semester, participate in community or volunteer service and remain in good standing, according to a university press release.

“We are so proud, in so many ways, of what we’ve been able to do for these students,” Tankersley said. “They have worked so hard, they’ve earned this. They’re going to change the world.”

Wyatt Loy is the administration reporter. Contact him at [email protected]