Starting this fall, qualifying high school graduates attending any of Detroit, Michigan’s, five community colleges will not have to worry about tuition. The Detroit Promise Zone, was announced in March, but launched just earlier this month. It’s a last-dollar program and is being paid for by a private scholarship foundation until 2018. Some of the funding will then come from property taxes.
More than 500 eligible students will take advantage of the program this year, according to the Detroit Regional Chamber, which helps administer the program. Students can attend Henry Ford College, Macomb Community College, Oakland Community College, Schoolcraft College and Wayne County Community College District.
College Promise programs like Detroit’s are on the rise. Since President Barack Obama announced the America’s College Promise (ACP) plan in 2015, nearly 30 new free community college programs have launched in states, communities and at individual community colleges.
But the trend didn’t start with ACP. Heads Up America has collected information on nearly 125 Promise programs across the country, many of which began years ago. Another Michigan program—the Kalamazoo Promise—began more than a decade ago. The statewide Tennessee Promise was announced in 2014 and began in fall 2015. It’s led to higher enrollment rates. The state has now launched the Tennessee Promise Forward grant, which expands supports to retain those students.
Promise programs add more than “$70 million in new public and private investments to serve nearly 40,000 students at community colleges,” a White House fact sheet says.
“The data are clear: higher education reaps a significant ROI for students serious about their studies who persist in college to attain their educational goals; the same ROI returns an event greater investment to our communities, states and the nation,” Martha Kanter, executive director of the College Promise Campaign, said in an article in the June/July issue of Community College Journal.
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