By Lisa Cooper – The Collegiate
Grand Rapids ‘Promise Zone’ could mean financial assistance for college-bound high school grads.
On Jan. 16, 2018, Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) took the important first step to establishing a “School Promise Zone” that would provide funds to assist students with paying for higher education.
To be eligible for funds, students must reside within defined city limits and graduate from either a public or private school within those defined limits.
“It’s an awesome opportunity for the students who live in the district to be afforded a higher education that can be paid for,” said Dr. Bill Pink, President of Grand Rapids Community College.
An application for approval has been submitted to the Michigan Department of Treasury. If approved by the state, Grand Rapids Public Schools will then need to establish a Promise Zone Authority Board. It is this board that will establish guidelines and student requirements for the Grand Rapids School Promise Zone.
“I’m 100% for it,” said GRCC’s Vice President for Finance and Administration Lisa Freiburger, echoing enthusiasm for the program. “For many who may not have access otherwise, this allows opportunities for higher education.”
One of the very first “Promise Zones” established was “The Kalamazoo Promise,” which was established in 2005 in Kalamazoo. A study completed by the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research found that the Kalamazoo Promise significantly helped increase college enrollment, college completion and positively impacted the economy of the community. GRPS hopes to model their Promise Zone after the Kalamazoo Promise.
In Michigan, there are currently 10 state-sanctioned Promise Zones: Baldwin Community Schools, Battle Creek Public Schools, Benton Harbor Area Schools, City of Detroit, School District of the City of Hazel Park, Lansing School District, Muskegon Area Intermediate School District. Newaygo County, School District of the City of Pontiac and Saginaw School District.
This year the state will choose a limited number of zones to be established. Though competition may be fierce, Pink said he feels that Grand Rapids has a very good chance of being chosen.
A decision is expected to be made by late spring/early summer 2018.