GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids area high school students will soon have the chance to go to Grand Rapids Community College tuition free. It’s part of the Grand Rapids Promise Zone Scholarship.

The Grand Rapids Promise Zone Authority Board of Directors approved the development plans of the scholarship Monday morning.

“Today is truly an important day in our community because it affirms our commitment to equity to our young people and access to education,” said Mayor Rosalynn Bliss who served on the Promise Zone Authority Board.

The scholarship can be used at Grand Rapids Community College to earn up to 60 credit hours. It will not only cover tuition, but also books, supplies and fees associated with their courses at GRCC.

The amount of scholarship funds available to each student is determined based on the amount of time a student attends one of the eligible high schools.

“I know there are many children that look like me that would have benefited from something like this,” Promise Zone Chair Teresa Weatherall Neal said. “For so many children at Christian schools, catholic schools, it doesn’t matter. This is a game changer for young people.”

Students who attended an eligible school from ninth or tenth grade as of the 2020 school year and graduated will receive 100 percent tuition. Eleventh graders will receive 50 percent and seniors graduating this school year will not receive anything.

Unlike the Kalamazoo Promise, the Grand Rapids Promise Zone covers a wider array of schools. In all, it will cover 22 schools including all public schools in Grand Rapids Public Schools, charter schools and even private schools.

Monday, GRCC also announced that it commit $500,000 in scholarships as part of the Grand Rapids Promise Zone Scholarship. That gift is a portion of the $3 million needed to cover the potential 1,300 students who are eligible to attend GRCC in fall 2020. 

“To say the Promise Zone is a game-changer really doesn’t go far enough,” GRCC President Bill Pink said in a statement. “We are removing cost as a barrier to getting an education, helping get an associate degree, credits to transfer to continue their education and career skills. This will be life-changing for so many students and their families.”

GRCC and Grand Rapids school administrators say they hope this promise scholarship will translate to higher paying jobs and career success for students.

“I was planning to go to Ferris or a bigger school, but then the cost was one of the problems and then a family situation happened, and it was impossible,” Innovation Central student Pedro Gutierrez said. 

Gutierrez says he was considering forfeiting his college education because of the high costs. Now with the promise scholarship opportunity, he plans to one day open his own construction business. 

“This is a big relief for me. I will be able to pay bills rather than having to give up money to pay the cost of tuition,” Gutierrez added. 

Other students say it’s monumental for them because they’re the first in their family to attend school. 

“It means a lot because I become a role model for my younger siblings,” Hedy Cardenas, a student at Innovation Central said. “They say if you go to college, they might follow in your footsteps and go too. I want them to see if I can do it, you can do it.”

The Grand Rapids Promise Zone Authority board says they’re still in conversations about how to make funding the scholarship sustainable for the years to come. They say there are donors who have pledged funding, but there’s still some fundraising to be done. They say eventually there will also be a state taxation element which will provide a large amount of the funding for the scholarship. 

The board says eventually they would like to extend the project to four-year institutions in some capacity.

The plan will now head to the state treasury for approval. They have 60 days to make a decision. 

For more information, parents can visit the Grand Rapids Promise Zone’s website, email or call 616.234.4321.

The eligible high schools are listed in the photo below:

A list of high schools eligible for the Grand Rapids Promise Zone Scholarship.

For more information, check out the GR Promise Zone website.