Dear Commons Community,
Mike Duggan, Mayor of Detroit, earlier this week committed to a program that guarantees two years of a tuition-free community college education to every high school graduate. It’s a commitment made possible through the Detroit Promise Zone, an authority Mayor Duggan and the Detroit City Council created last fall to dedicate a portion of tax dollars to permanently fund two-year scholarships. The Promise Zone will provide a tuition-free path to an associate’s degree at a community college for a graduate of any Detroit high school – no matter whether private, public, or charter. The program will also enable many young Detroiters to begin their post-college careers free of debt. As described in the Mayor’s announcement:
“The Promise Zone legislation requires a private organization to fund two years of scholarships before any taxes can be captured. In 2013, the Detroit Regional Chamber and the Michigan Education Excellence Foundation (MEEF) took on that challenge and created the Detroit Scholarship Fund. Over the past three years, the Detroit Scholarship Fund has helped nearly 2,000 Detroit high school graduates attend community college, tuition-free. The MEEF and the Detroit Regional Chamber will continue to fund the scholarships for the next three years until the Detroit Promise Zone tax capture is permitted in 2018…
…To be eligible, students must live in Detroit and have spent their junior and senior years at a high school in the city. The graduates can then go to one of five community colleges in metro Detroit: Henry Ford Community College, Wayne County Community College District, Schoolcraft College, Macomb Community College and Oakland Community College.
The Detroit Promise Zone Authority Board is Chairwoman Penny Bailer, former executive director of City Year Detroit; Vice Chairwoman Iris Taylor, retired CEO of Detroit Receiving Hospital; Tonya Allen, president and CEO of the Skillman Foundation; Floyd Allen, principal of the Allen Law Group; Charlie Beckham, Group Executive of Neighborhoods for the City of Detroit; John May partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers; Hector Hernandez, executive director of economic solutions for Southwest Solutions; and Wanda Redmond, Detroit Board of Education member.
“A family’s financial situation is no longer a roadblock to our city’s young people getting the education that they need in order to live productive lives and lead successful careers,” Bailer said. “We are confident that Detroit’s future will be even brighter now that our city’s future leaders will be able to go to college at no cost.”
Detroit joins several other states and cities that have moved forward with free college programs. They all point to a future when public community colleges and at some later point, public four-year colleges will become free for all students.