Written by David Jesse, Detroit Free Press
Originally published on Freep.com. Click here to view original story.
Sitting in the Michigan Union, doing some studying before heading off to her retail job in downtown Ann Arbor, Kate Meyers was unaware that her financial plans for the next several years had just changed.
Meyer, 20, of Grand Rapids, is about to get her University of Michigan tuition paid for. She is one of thousands of current students and a lot more future students who won’t have to pay tuition to attend the Ann Arbor school, thanks to the new Go Blue Guarantee unveiled by the school Thursday and approved by the board.
Here’s how it will work: Starting in January 2018, any current or future in-state student whose family earns $65,000 or less will be eligible for free tuition for four years. That’s worth about $60,000 for those four years total.
“That’s amazing,” Meyer said when a reporter explained the program to her. “My parents make less than that. I get a lot of financial aid, but I’ve still got to work to afford everything, including housing. Not having to worry about paying tuition is incredible.”
That was the reaction university officials were hoping for.
“This will change lives forever,” said Regent Denise Ilitch.
The move is part of the drive to increase access to the university, officials said.
In the 2016 freshmen class, about 20% had family incomes of under $75,000 a year. At the same time, 24.5% of the class had family incomes higher than $250,000.
About half the families in the state will qualify for this incentive, U-M officials said. Those who qualify for the free tuition will also qualify for other financial aid to cover costs such as housing.
When the program is up and running, it’s expected to cost the university between $12 million and $16 million a year. The university will cover the gap between traditional financial aid like Pell Grants and the cost of tuition.
U-M President Mark Schlissel said the program was developed after hearing from families statewide about the soaring cost of college.
In-state undergraduate tuition will increase by 2.9% to $14,826 for the most common lower-division rate. Comparable tuition for out-of-state undergraduates will be $47,476, an increase of 4.5%. Tuition for most graduate programs will increase by 4.1%.
Not all board members were supportive of the entire budget.
Longtime Regent Andrea Fischer Newman voted against it, despite being happy for the free tuition program. She said there would still be students who struggled to afford to attend U-M.
“There’s still going to be many families, especially middle-class families, priced out of the University of Michigan,” she said. She was the lone no vote on the budget.
The guarantee only affects those students attending the Ann Arbor campus, not U-M Dearborn or Flint.
“The Go Blue Guarantee is a big win for Michigan families that want a better future, and it honors students who have worked hard to achieve their dreams,” board Chairman Mark Bernstein said. “In short, we are doing the job that Lansing and Washington have failed to do.
“Today, we honor our promise to make college more affordable for families that need the most help. We’re doing this without taking away any need-based financial aid from any family. In fact, many in-state students from families earning up to $125,000 a year are awarded scholarships and grants that pay half their tuition.
“This is a transformative moment in the history of the University of Michigan — our state and nation is watching us.”
There are a number of free college programs in the state, most of which are centered on specific areas.
The first one was the Kalamazoo Promise, which was started in 2005 by a donor giving free college to students who graduated from Kalamazoo Public Schools.
There’s also a Detroit Promise.
To be eligible for two years of free tuition at a community college, students must live in Detroit and have spent their junior and senior years at a high school — whether traditional public, private or charter — in the city.
The participating community colleges are Henry Ford College, Macomb Community College, Oakland Community College, Schoolcraft College and Wayne County Community College District.
To be eligible for funding at a four-year university or college, Detroit residents must have attended all four years of high school in the city and have a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 by Feb. 1 of their senior year. They need a minimum score of 21 on the ACT or 1060 on the SAT.
Other state schools also offer various scholarships to help cover costs.
For example, Eastern Michigan University’s Education First Opportunity Scholarship (EFOS) provides free tuition to Michigan students who have academic merit (3.0 GPA and 20 ACT) and are Pell eligible, a program initiated in fall 2012.
U-M isn’t the only university across the nation to offer such a plan, however it is the only one in the state that offers free tuition without academic restrictions.
At Princeton, students whose families make under $54,000 get a complete full ride, while students with less than $120,000 in family income get free tuition.
At Duke University, students whose families have incomes under $60,000 get a free full ride.
At Harvard, students whose families have incomes under $65,000 get a free full ride.
Those are private universities.
2016 entering class at by income
About 20% of freshmen entering the University of Michigan in 2016 had incomes under $75,000. In comparison, 24.5% came from families who make more than $250,000. Source: University of Michigan CIRP data.
|FAMILY INCOME||PERCENT OF 2016 ENTERING CLASS|
|Less than $60,000||15.20%|
|$60,000 to $74,999||5.50%|
|$75,000 to $99,999||8.20%|
|$100,000 to $149,999||18.00%|
|$150,000 to $199,999||9.50%|
|$200,000 to $249,000||9.90%|