MUSKEGON, Mich. — A new fundraising campaign for the Muskegon Area Promise kicked off with a boost from area businesses.

A dozen individuals and businesses were recognized Friday morning for being the first people to commit $759,000 to the "Dream Bigger" campaign. Officials say the $2.5-million goal of the campaign is critical to meet the unexpected high demand for the two-year scholarships.

Muskegon Area Intermediate School District Superintendent John Severson said, “Initially we expected many of these top students with 3.5 and higher grade point averages to head off to four-year universities. In reality, about half of the eligible students recognized the quality of our local colleges and were eager to lighten their financial load. We also experienced an 84% return rate--well above the typical 49% rate.”

Students have to live in Muskegon County, have a 3.5 GPA, and have graduated from one of the county's 16 high schools to earn The Promise Scholarship. Last year 503, roughly 27% of 2018's graduating seniors, qualified for the scholarship, which pays two years of tuition at Muskegon Community College or Baker College and an annual $500 stipend for books.

The Promise was launched in 2015 and since then 460 students have received the scholarship. The "Dream Bigger" campaign is expected to sustain the Promise until 2024, when it is projected to be fully funded by capturing a portion of the growth in the existing State Education Tax.

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