GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Big news is afoot for students in Grand Rapids.

The Grand Rapids Promise Zone Authority Board of Directors met Monday, Jan. 13 and approved the development plan of a scholarship program that will allow students to earn certificates, or even an associates degree, for free at Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC). 

The Grand Rapids Promise Zone Scholarship will start with the Class of 2020. Students who live in Grand Rapids and graduate from one of the eligible high schools are eligible to apply and it will not only cover tuition, but also books, supplies and fees associated with GRCC courses. 

According to a release from Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS), the scholarship is prorated based on the amount of time a student has lived in Grand Rapids and attends an eligible school.

If a students has attended an eligible school from grades 9 until 12, they will receive 100% of the scholarship benefits. A student who attends a school from grades 10 through 12 will also receive 100% of the scholarship benefits. 

If a student only attends an eligible school from grades 11 through 12, they will receive 50% of the scholarship benefits. Finally, if a student only attends an eligible school for grade 12, none of the scholarship benefits will be available.

The Grand Rapids Promise Zone scholarship is a “last dollar” scholarship. Students are required to complete the FAFSA -- Free Application for Federal Student Aid -- to determine available need-based aid. Once the total need-based aid has been determined, they will receive a Grand Rapids Promise Zone scholarship to cover the remaining costs of tuition, fees, books and required course materials.

GRCC will provide $500,000 in scholarships as part of the program and also has accepted the role of administering the program on behalf of the authority board.

Eligible high schools in the Grand Rapids Promise Zone Scholarship: 

  • Grand Rapids City High School
  • Grand Rapids Catholic Central High School
  • Grand Rapids University Prep
  • Sacred Heart Academy High School 
  • Innovation Central High School
  • Grand Rapids Christian High School
  • Ottawa Hills High School
  • West Catholic High School
  • Union High School
  • Grand Rapids Adventist Academy
  • Grand Rapids Montessori High School
  • Wellspring Preparatory High School
  • C.A. Frost Environmental Science Academy
  • Hope Academy of West Michigan
  • Grand Rapids Public Museum School
  • Grand Rapids Covenant House Academy
  • Grand Rapids Learning Center
  • NorthPointe Christian High School
  • Lake Michigan Academy
  • Plymouth Christian High School
  • Southwest Community Campus High School
  • Southeast Career Pathways

A press conference announcing the official approval of the scholarship took place Monday morning after the board meeting at the GRPS Administration Building Auditorium on Franklin Street SE. 

Dr. Bill Pink, President of GRCC, spoke at a Monday event with Mayor Rosalyn Bliss; Teresa Weatherall Neal, chairperson of the Grand Rapids Promise Zone Authority; and other community and education leaders to discuss the program to provide a GRCC education without cost to graduates from 22 public, public charter and private high schools located within the city.

“To say the Promise Zone is a game-changer really doesn’t go far enough,” Pink said. “We are removing cost as a barrier to getting an education, helping get an associate degree, credits to transfer to continue their education and career skills. This will be life-changing for so many students and their families.”

Pink said the Promise Zone partnership is a natural extension of GRCC’s work across West Michigan.

‘’We are proud to partner with the 22 Promise Zone schools, but we are equally proud of our commitment to the rest of the high schools and residents in Kent and Ottawa counties,” he said. “We are the entire region’s community college, and that does not change.

“People who aren’t eligible for the Promise Zone scholarship can still get a quality, affordable education at GRCC. We’ll also work with those students to see if they are eligible for other types of financial aid that might reduce their costs.”

People with questions can look at the website and reach out through the email promisezone@grcc.edu and by calling 616-234-4321.

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