By Associated Press
DETROIT — Detroit will start using state education tax dollars to fund a program that will pay for two years of community college for the city’s high school graduates.
Detroit Promise scholarships will be available to students starting in 2018. The program follows promise zone legislation passed years ago by state lawmakers and signed in 2009 by then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
Promise zones can use state education tax dollars collected through property taxes to support local fundraising efforts. State law requires a private organization to fund two years of scholarships before any taxes can be captured.
The Detroit Regional Chamber and Michigan Education Excellence Foundation will fund the program for the next two years.
“Affordability will no longer be a reason for any student in Detroit not going to college,” Detroit Regional Chamber President and Chief Executive Sandy Baruah said.
The scholarships will cover tuition and other costs not covered by state and federal grants. They are open to students in public, charter or private schools. Students must live in Detroit and spend their final two years at high schools in the city.
High school graduates can attend Henry Ford, Wayne, Oakland or Macomb community colleges or Schoolcraft College. They must be accepted by those colleges.
“My hope is that this promise is just the beginning and that we’ll be able to raise enough money to promise every Detroit high school student four years of tuition-free education at our public universities,” Mayor Mike Duggan said Tuesday.
The program also could entice parents to remain Detroit residents or move into the city with the guarantee of free college tuition, officials said.
Duggan and the Detroit City Council created the Detroit Promise Zone authority last fall to dedicate the tax dollars to fund the two-year scholarships.
Other cities with similar promise zones include Battle Creek, Lansing, Muskegon and Pontiac. The promise zone legislation was modeled somewhat after the Kalamazoo Promise, which guarantees free college tuition to graduates of Kalamazoo Public Schools.
The Detroit Regional Chamber and Michigan Education Excellence Foundation created the Detroit Scholarship Fund in 2013. That fund has helped nearly 2,000 high school graduates attend community college.