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Grand Rapids Promise Zone approved by state treasury, program will start this school year

Eligible students will be able to attend Grand Rapids Community College for free beginning with the Class of 2020.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — The Michigan Department of Treasury has approved the Grand Rapids Promise Zone Authority’s Development Plan, which will provide free tuition to Grand Rapids Community College for Grand Rapids students.

Now that the scholarship has approval from the state treasury, the program is officially set in motion and will allow students who live in the Grand Rapids and graduate from one of the 24 eligible high schools free tuition to GRCC.

The treasury department confirmed the approval in a Feb. 5 letter that the authority board’s development plan met the requirements of the Michigan Promise Zone Authority Act. 

“This is an incredible win for Grand Rapids students and for our region’s future,” said Teresa Weatherall Neal, Grand Rapids Promise Zone Authority chairperson. “This unique state funding mechanism has proven to improve enrollment and degree completion in similar models around the country, and will help to secure a brighter future for Grand Rapids families and businesses.”

For students to receive the full Grand Rapids Promise Zone Scholarship, they must:

  • Attend an eligible Grand Rapids high school continuously since the beginning of 10th grade or before;
  • Live in the city of Grand Rapids boundaries continuously since the beginning of 10th grade or before; and 
  • Graduate from any of the 24 public, public charter, or private high schools located within the city. 

The scholarship will fund up to 60 total credit hours at GRCC -- the equivalent of a two-year degree -- as well as the cost of fees, books, and required course materials. Students may use the scholarship to attend full time or part-time and have up to five years to utilize the scholarship.

PREVIOUS: Grand Rapids Promise Zone ‘life-changing’ for students, $500K in scholarships available

Students also may apply the scholarship toward specific GRCC vocational, job training, and certification programs for up to five years after high school graduation. Scholarship recipients will need to submit their Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application each year, with DACA and undocumented students exempted.

The Michigan Promise Zone Authority Act allows the Grand Rapids Promise Zone Authority to use tax increment financing (TIF), according to a press release from the treasury department. TIF will capture half of the incremental growth from Grand Rapids’ State Education Tax to fund the scholarship. This is not a tax increase, the portion of funds are already being accessed on properties within the city of Grand Rapids. This is a new use for TIF, which is typically used to fund construction and infrastructure projects. Michigan is the first state governmental unit to use TIF to support higher education.

Now that the development plan is approved, the TIF capture will kick in after two years, during which time the Grand Rapids Promise Zone scholarship will be funded by a combination of private and corporate donors. Nearly $3 million in total will need to be raised. GRCC has already committed $500,000 in scholarships, and the Grand Rapids Promise Zone Authority Board has a plan for approaching donors.

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

For more information parents and students can visit the website: grpromisezone.com, email promisezone@grcc.edu, or call 616-234-4321.


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