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Mayor Duggan announces Detroit Promise Zone program that will provide all Detroit HS graduates 2 years of free college

DETROIT – Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced that from this day forward, every Detroit high school graduate will be guaranteed two years of tuition-free college education.

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.

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.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a high school senior preparing for college now or a second-grader whose college career is years away,” Mayor Duggan said. “The Detroit Promise will be there to help make a college education a reality. My hope is that this promise is just the beginning and that we’ll be able to raise enough money to promise every Detroit high school student four years of tuition-free education at our public universities.”

“We now have three years of helping hundreds of Detroit students go to college through the Detroit Scholarship Fund,” said Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber. “We welcome the Detroit Promise as a powerful example of collaboration and what we can achieve when we work together, and also as a permanent, dedicated funding source – a guarantee that kids will be able to go to college, no matter their family’s economic status.

“Increasing educational attainment in our largest city is critical to the region’s competitiveness and growth.”
Students must apply for Pell grants, and the scholarship will pay the difference. The Chamber and MEEF will pick up the tab for the first two years, and the City can use a portion of the State Education Tax (SET) after that.

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.”

Current high school seniors and parents who would like more information about the Detroit Scholarship Fund opportunities should go to They must register for the DSF and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid by June 30.