As the cost of college continues to climb and with the economy in a recession, Detroit students have until June 30 to sign up for the opportunity to go to college in Michigan tuition-free.
The deadline to register is June 30, according to Detroit Promise, which has helped 4,000 Detroit students afford higher education since 2013. It also helps students pursue technical certificates.
Here’s how it works: Students apply for financial aid through the FAFSA, which is required to get the Pell Grant. Whatever the grant doesn’t pay for, Detroit Promise picks up the rest for community college students. A full Pell is about $6,000, which doesn’t cover the tab at four-year universities so in that case, Detroit Promise contributes a portion while the university picks up the difference, says Greg Handel, vice president of education and talent at the Detroit Regional Chamber. The program has helped between 400 and 500 students a year to attend community college, with about 200-250 students going to four-year universities such as Michigan State University, University of Michigan, Wayne State University, and more.
Detroit Promise aims to serve students from low-income families who are often from communities of color and are first-generation college students, Handel says.
It’s helped students like Ayush Bhatt, a 2016 graduate of Communication and Media Arts School and now a senior at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, where he is pursuing a bachelor’s in management information systems. After he graduates this August, he’s planning to work as a business analyst before pursuing his master’s.
In 2014, his family immigrated to Michigan from India in search of better educational opportunities for Bhatt. They first settled in Westland before moving to the west side of Detroit in Old Redford.
His parents work as machine operators at an automotive parts supplier.
“I don't think I would have gone to a four-year university without the help of Detroit Promise,” he says. “I would have taken a student loan … we didn't have the money to pay to the university. So I would have not finished my degree in four years.”
The program also helped Bhatt land an internship last year with Detroit Employment Solutions corporation through Grow Detroit’s Young Talent.
Modeled after a similar program in Kalamazoo, Detroit Promise launched in 2013, starting with helping Detroit students attend to community college (Henry Ford College, Macomb Community College, Oakland Community College, Schoolcraft College, and Wayne County Community College District) with four-year universities added in 2016. Also launched in 2016 was the Detroit Promise Path, which assigns success coaches to students to address the dropoff in students from year one to year two.
As a result of the pandemic, national surveys are predicting declines in enrollment, but Detroit Promise is working to address that.
“We're being very aggressive in terms of trying to address summer melt,” which is when students say they’ll attend college but then over the summer “melt away” between spring and fall, Handel says. His team is reaching out to students, providing encouragement, and raising awareness of success coaches.
“That's something we do every year, but it's something we really ramped up this year in particular. And universities are being a little more flexible with their SAT requirements, and we're reaching out and letting students know, even if you didn't meet the 1060 SAT requirement, talk to us because there might be a university that would provide free tuition and fees for you. So we're really working to support those students all the way through the summer so that they have a plan for the fall.”
Students must register online and sign a release form (which authorizes Detroit Promise and their school of choice to share information and discuss students’ records) by June 30.
To offer this scholarship to students, Detroit Promise partnered with the City of Detroit, Michigan Association of State Universities and Michigan Education Excellence Foundation.
Students with questions on eligibility can email [email protected] or go to the website.