“We’re calling it history”: GRCC proud to offer tuition-free education for Grand Rapids students

Grand Rapids Public Schools recently announced the Grand Rapids Promise Zone Authority’s intent to approve a development plan for the creation of a scholarship. Starting with the Class of 2020, students who live in the City of Grand Rapids and graduate from one of its eligible high schools can earn a certificate or associate degree at Grand Rapids Community College tuition-free.

On January 13, less than six months since its first meeting convened, the Grand Rapids Promise Zone Authority’s board approved its development plan that will make it possible for every student residing in the city and who graduates from any of the 22 public, public charter, or private high schools located within the city limits, to have access to GRCC’s associate degree, job training, and certification programs tuition-free. During a press conference immediately following the January 13 board meeting, GRCC president Dr. Bill Pink called the moment “historic.”

“We are honored to be a part of such a wonderful day, a historic day.” We are calling it history, Dr. Pink said, “Because of the conversation and the movement that has happened today, as far as helping the students of Grand Rapids – the families of Grand Rapids, have access to higher education at a level that they've never had before.”

Michigan Promise Zones origins go back to 2005 when in Kalamazoo, anonymous donors made it possible to provide all graduates of Kalamazoo Public Schools with full-tuition scholarships to any state university or community college in Michigan. The private initiative became known as the Kalamazoo Promise and shortly after it made its first scholarship, former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm signed legislation that allowed local communities to establish “Promise Zones” in cities with high rates of poverty. Since 2009, the legislation has been amended twice to increase the number of designated zones. The current law provides for 15 zones across the state. Grand Rapids received its designation in 2019.

Promise Zones can be formed by school districts, cities, townships, and counties. In the case of Grand Rapids, it was a collaborative effort among the city, the city's 22 area high schools, and GRCC. A partnership Dr. Pink is proud GRCC is a part of.

“It is amazing that we can have this level of partnership in this city that has never been seen before,” said Dr. Pink. “GRCC is a proud partner. Our history goes back with Grand Rapids Public Schools. We were birthed as part of GRPS.” So, he continued, “it is a natural thing for us to be in this level of partnership.” In addition to the Promise Zone Authority’s approval of its development plan, Grand Rapids Community College announced it will contribute a half-million dollars in scholarship funds for Promise Zone recipients.

“I'm proud to say the level of commitment that our institution is engaging through our GRCC Foundation. Today, announcing a commitment of $500,000 in scholarship to go toward this Promise Zone effort,” said Dr. Pink. “Our foundation board was thrilled to be able to say yes to that because of the level of partnership it means, but also what it means for our community history.”

The Grand Rapids Promise Zone Authority’s approved development plan now goes to the Michigan Department of Treasury for approval and is slated to begin offering scholarships to the Class of 2020. Families can learn more about eligibility by visiting the GR Promise Zone website, reaching out through email via [email protected], or calling 616-234-4321.

Photos Courtesy Grand Rapids Public Schools.

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