Detroit Regional Chamber > Advocacy > Mayor Duggan: ‘You Can Go to College Because You’re Lucky Enough to Live in Detroit’

Mayor Duggan: ‘You Can Go to College Because You’re Lucky Enough to Live in Detroit’

April 18, 2024

Detroit Regional Chamber’s Detroit Promise Scholarship Central to Detroit’s Dramatic Comeback Story

*Watch the full 2024 State of the City below

With the 2024 NFL Draft about to focus the eyes of the world on Detroit, Mayor Mike Duggan’s 11th State of the City Address celebrated what the nation and world will see 10 years after the city declared bankruptcy. The success of the Detroit Regional Chamber-administered Detroit Promise scholarship program was highlighted on Duggan’s list of initiatives that are transforming the city. The Detroit Promise Scholarship offers tuition-free college access for Detroit high school graduates.

“What I want to say to every parent and grandparent in Detroit listening to me tonight is: Have the same conversation with your six- or seven- or eight-year-old that my parents had with me,” said Duggan. “[Tell them that] if you want to work hard and you’re smart enough, you can go to college because you’re lucky enough to live in the city of Detroit.”

The scholarship is a core program of the Chamber, which operates the most comprehensive portfolio of education and talent programs for the Detroit Region. The Chamber is committed to improving the graduation rates of Detroiters as it’s leading the Region toward achieving 60% educational attainment and cutting the educational racial equity gap in half by 2030 – a goal since adopted statewide by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer..

Chamber, Philanthropy Rallied to Make Scholarship Reality Until City Could Sustain It

The Detroit Promise scholarship has served over 6,000 Detroit students from over 50 high schools. Duggan explained that once Detroit high school graduates apply for financial aid, the city will cover the rest of the tuition through the Detroit Promise. The money for the scholarship is locked in thanks to Michigan’s 2008 Promise Zone legislation, which allows cities with growing property values to pay for college scholarships through a tax capture. It was not initially implemented by the city as it struggled with declining property values.

Chamber CEO Sandy Baruah and Mayor Mike Duggan supporting the Detroit Promise.“I want to thank Sandy Baruah and [the Detroit Regional Chamber] and the MEEF as they raised that money to get us through [2017] and ‘18 and ‘19,” said Duggan.

The Michigan Excellence in Education Foundation (MEEF), under then-Gov. Rick Snyder and the Chamber rallied the business and philanthropic community to fund and launch the scholarship in 2013. The city eventually created the Promise Zone in 2016 and started collecting money in 2020 to sustain the scholarship as property values increased.

The mayor outlined how rising property values amid the city’s revitalization are now delivering millions in funding for the scholarship ($6.3 million in 2024) as numerous innovative postsecondary programs are in the works or coming online in Detroit, including Michigan State University’s research center, Wayne State University’s new center of performing arts, and the University of Michigan’s Center for Innovation.

Detroit Promise Scholarship Students’ Graduation Rates Exceeding National Average

Recognition for the program is growing as students are accessing it as a tuition-free path to an associate degree, bachelor’s degree, or technical certificate. In 2024, more than 3,700 seniors registered for the thriving program, which includes 32 Michigan colleges and universities.

According to the Chamber’s 2023 State of Education and Talent Report, the Detroit Promise Scholarship students’ graduation rate at four-year schools is far surpassing the national average for Black students by 13 percentage points (62% compared to 49%) and seven percentage points for Latino students.

“There are so many smart kids in this town, six, eight, 10, and 12 years old. It never crosses their mind they could go to college. We’ve changed that,” said Duggan. “And right now, children of Detroit families have college tuition guaranteed forever.”

Learn how employers can support Chamber initiatives like the Detroit Promise.