Students who attend high school in Grand Rapids will soon be able to continue their education for free at Grand Rapids Community College.
Starting with the class of 2020, students who live and attend high school in the city can earn a certificate or associate degree at GRCC tuition-free under a plan approved today by the Grand Rapids Promise Zone Authority board of directors.
The Grand Rapids Promise Zone Scholarship also will cover the cost of books, supplies, and fees associated with courses, said GRCC President Bill Pink at a press conference today. All 22 of the city’s public, public charter, or private high schools are included in the program.
The Grand Rapids Promise Zone was created in July 2019 with the Michigan Department of Treasury’s approval of a promise zone designation for the city. The Grand Rapids Promise Zone Authority board convened its first meeting in September. Since then, the board has formed the structure of the scholarship and today passed along the development plan to the Michigan Treasury for approval.
“Today is a great day for our city and the Class of 2020,” said Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, who first talked about this scholarship in her 2019 Grand Rapids State of the City address. “This program removes barriers and provides support to our high school graduates to access higher education to earn an associate degree or certification.”
The scholarship will be awarded to students on a prorated scale based on the number of years they attend high school in Grand Rapids. Students who start in 10th grade or before, live in Grand Rapids from 10th grade or before and graduate from high school will receive a full ride. Students who start in 11th grade or move into Grand Rapids in 11th grade can still receive 50 percent of the scholarship. Those who move or start attending in 12th grade are not eligible.
The Grand Rapids Promise Zone scholarship is a “last dollar” scholarship. Students are required to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA) 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 rest. A process is being developed to allow DACA and undocumented students to access the scholarship without completing the FAFSA, according to the board.
“To say the Promise Zone is a game-changer really doesn’t go far enough,” GRCC President Bill Pink said. “We are removing cost as a barrier to getting an education, helping get an associate degree, or credits to transfer to continue their education and career skills. This will be life-changing for so many students and their families.”
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.