Grand Rapids Community College and Grand Rapids Public Schools have collaborated to create a promise zone designation. Students who attend GRPS high schools are eligible to attend GRCC, exclusively, tuition-free. This opportunity will also cover all other academic costs of attending GRCC: books, supplies, etc.
The Grand Rapids Promise Zone Authority Board of Directors voted this morning to implement the plan. The scholarship opportunities will go into effect beginning with the class of 2020.
“Many of our students are juggling one, two, three jobs not to mention families, etc. – 70% are going part time because they are trying to keep jobs, family and school in the air,” GRCC President Bill Pink said as he addressed the Promise Zone Board. “This provides them not just with a pathway, but a financially reachable pathway.”
Pink said that the college will be financially contributing to this scholarship opportunity as well.
“GRCC is pledging $500,000 to support this Promise Zone getting started,” Pink said.
Eligibility for this scholarship varies depending on the length of attendance and residency within the school district. Students who attend a GRPS high school from 9-12th or 10-12th grade will receive a 100% scholarship. Students attending 11-12th grade will receive a 50% scholarship. Those who attend a GRPS high school for only 12th grade are not eligible.
Promise Zones are set up as a last-dollar model. The scholarship will cover the costs remaining after all other financial aid methods have been taken into account. The biggest obstacle to a fall 2020 launch is getting students to fill out their FAFSA information. State and federal financial aid will be disbursed before Promise Zone money will be distributed.
Pink also expressed his excitement for being “the exclusive institution for those students to access” when he addressed staff and faculty at his welcome-back speech on Wednesday.
“It is a really strong statement for this community and for West Michigan in terms of what this institution means to Grand Rapids,” Pink said, later adding, “I love that because it’s a reflection of you. It’s a reflection of the work that you do and have done for years.”
In what he described as his “Pink Opinion,” Pink said he believes that the greatest increase will be seen in the number of credit hours students take as opposed to the overall number of students who are coming from GRPS to attend GRCC. The photo below shows the current number of high school students who choose to attend GRCC versus other higher education institutions.
This opportunity is viewed as an agreement that will enrich the city of Grand Rapids as a whole.
“The scholarship has been created to address inequities in educational attainment within our city and, in doing so, expand economic opportunity,” stated John Helmholdt, Director of Communications for GRPS. “This scholarship will also help to continue to build on our city’s robust economic development by not only offering an associate’s degree at GRCC, but also offer GRCC’s free job training and accreditation for our young people as they move forward after high school.”
Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss expressed her gratitude and excitement for this opportunity as did former GRPS Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal.
“We were able to move quickly because of our strong partnership with GRCC,” Bliss said, and Weatherall Neal added, “This is a heavy load we are lifting and we did it quick. There’s nothing we can’t do here in Grand Rapids.”
GRCC Director of Communications David Murray stated in an email that while the authority team has been “working closely” with the state Treasury Department, it is still awaiting formal approval before it can be enacted.
The Collegiate Feature Editor Maxx Kriger contributed to this story.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated Tuesday, Jan. 14 to include information from David Murray.