Debt forgiveness program to start at Henry Ford, other local colleges

April 30, 2019

Press and Guide

The Detroit Regional Chamber with higher education institution partners Henry Ford College (HFC), Oakland University (OU), and Wayne State University (WSU) announced an innovative new program that will remove a primary barrier to degree completion for thousands of adults in the Detroit region.

The program targets the 693,000 adults across the Detroit region with college credits, but no degree, by offering debt forgiveness of previously incurred educational debt at WSU, OU and HFC provided that students enroll at any of these three institutions, remain current on their new higher education financial obligations, and make progress towards degree or certificate completion.

This effort is part of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s region-wide goal to improve the postsecondary attainment rate from 40% to 60% by 2030. Targeting the 693,000 adults with some college but no degree is a prime opportunity to progress toward the 60% goal.

WSU, OU and HFC have jointly agreed to the following principles:

• Unlimited. There is no cap to the number of students that can participate.

• Flexible. Both community college (maximum debt forgiveness of one half of total outstanding student debt) and four-year university programs (maximum $1,500 of debt forgiveness) included.

• Reciprocity. Participating institutions agree to share academic transcripts with other participating institutions for students enrolled in the program, if students agree to enroll in a payment plan.

“One of the most effective ways to increase our region’s education attainment level is to remove barriers to those adults who already have some college credits to be able to complete their degree or certificate program. This multi-institution debt forgiveness program will be an important element of moving our region’s educational attainment rate to the 60% goal,” noted Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Chamber.

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Michigan has 1.6M college dropouts. Debt forgiveness may lure them back.

April 30, 2019

Bridge Magazine

Chastity Pratt


Henry Ford College and Oakland University are set to announce Tuesday that they will join Wayne State in a cooperative agreement to offer college debt forgiveness incentives. Any student who takes advantage of up to $1,500 in debt forgiveness would be able to transfer between the colleges.

The initiative is part of an effort announced by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and supported by the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce to improve the state’s post-secondary education attainment rate from 40 percent to 60 percent by 2030.

The Detroit Regional Chamber is assisting with the outreach and reconnecting former students with the debt forgiveness process.

“One of the most effective ways to increase our region’s education attainment level is to remove barriers,” said Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the chamber.

“This multi-institution debt forgiveness program will be an important element of moving our region’s educational attainment rate to the 60 percent goal.”

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3 metro Detroit colleges to forgive debt for returning students to complete degree

April 30, 2019

Detroit Free Press

David Jesse


In metro Detroit alone, about 693,000 adults attended some college but didn’t graduate. Some 13,000 of those went to Wayne State, while 11,600 went to Henry Ford and another 8,300 attended Oakland.

Records show that 25% of students at the three schools — 24,016 students — who stopped going left with some sort of financial hold on their accounts.

The plans are being promoted by the Detroit Regional Chamber.

“It’s a great way to ease the path back into college,” said Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the chamber. “If we create a lot of jobs, but don’t have local people who can take those jobs, it’s not as good for the region.”

The plan also meshes with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s overall plan to increase college attainment across the state, said Brandy Johnson, adviser, postsecondary education and workforce development to Whitmer.

“It sends the message that we need the talent and are willing to do what we can to help,” she said. “It’s really signaling to the population that we want them to get these” degrees and credentials.

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Metro Detroit colleges offer debt relief to former students

April 30, 2019

The Detroit News

Breana Noble

Students who attended but did not graduate from three Metro Detroit higher education institutions will have the chance to cash in on a new debt forgiveness program to go back to school.

The program, led by the Detroit Regional Chamber, is for the 693,000 adults across southeast Michigan with college credits but no degree and is aimed at improving the region’s postsecondary attainment rate from 44%. It is one of the first multi-institutional regional debt forgiveness programs in the country.

So far, Wayne State University, Oakland University and Henry Ford College have agreed to participate.

“We have a large number of adults who started but never got a degree,” said Greg Handel, the chamber’s vice president of education and talent. “A large percentage stopped because they had financial issues. We thought we would convene this partnership to try and improve the educational outcomes for the region.”

Community college programs, like Henry Ford, are offering maximum forgiveness of one-half of total outstanding student debt. Four-year university programs, like Oakland and Wayne State, are offering a maximum of $500 of debt forgiveness per semester for up to three semesters.

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Debt Forgiveness Programs Coming To Three Major Colleges In Metro Detroit

April 30, 2019

WWJ News Radio


Both Wayne State University and Oakland University are willing to waive up to $1,500 off of the debt owed, while Henry Ford College will forgive up to one half of a students debt.

Detroit Regional Chamber Vice-President Greg Handel says they want to improve the region’s post-secondary attainment rate, which now stands at 40 percent.

“We wanted to being a survey of our business members in the near future,” said Handle, “to start to find out what kind practices they have in place in terms of tuition support for their employees, and encourage more companies to offer tuition supports and other kind of supports to help their employees to get degrees.”

Wayne State has used a debt forgiveness program called ‘Warrior Way Back’ which has benefitted the 100 or so students involved, leaving University President M. Roy Wilson encouraged.

“I think that once it’s up to scale, said Wilson, “that it could be thousands, maybe tens of thousands of students, could benefit.”

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Butzel Long attorney Beth S. Gotthelf to receive Honorary Doctorate from Oakland University on April 25

DETROIT, Mich. – Butzel Long attorney Beth S. Gotthelf will receive an Honorary Doctorate in Humanities from her alma mater, Oakland University, during a commencement ceremony on Thursday, April 25, 2019.

Gotthelf is Butzel Long’s Director of Innovation and External Relations. She also is an Executive-in-Residence at the Macomb-OU INCubator and serves on the Macomb-OU INCubator Advisory Council.

Gotthelf reflects back on her days at Oakland University, “It was transformative, bringing a passion of other cultures, Shakespeare and art history. Oakland University also opened my eyes to nutrition and fitness, which has led me to be a lifelong biker and swimmer. All this and a career, too!”

Gotthelf served as a lay-leader on legislative trade missions to Israel to help Michigan legislators learn what has worked to make Israel an economic leader, and bring those ‘lessons learned’ back to Michigan. She is immediate past president and a current Board member of the Michigan Israel Business Accelerator (MIBA). With her connector skills, Gotthelf chaired a highly successful matchmaking initiative to bring Israel and Michigan automotive companies together during a high-tech automotive exchange mission by the Israel Consul for Economic Affairs and the Michigan Israel Business Bridge (now the MIBA). That mission resulted in over 100 matchmaking meetings.

She continued her passion of connecting companies to create business when she became president of MIBA by convincing Israel to have its first ever trade mission of Israeli Defense companies to a state (Michigan) in 2017. This mission was so successful that it led to the first-ever trade mission by a state (Michigan) of defense companies to Israel in December 2018. As a result, Michigan and Israel defense companies are reaping the benefit.

Gotthelf brings a pragmatic and holistic approach to clients’ issues, assisting them in reaching their business goals, often matchmaking clients’ needs and acting as an outside general counsel. Her assistance in diversifying automotive suppliers into the aerospace & defense arena during the economic downturn is just one example of her holistic approach. She now counsels clients in governmental contracting, ITAR, EAR, and Foreign Military Sales. Gotthelf also is a leader in environmental law, bringing creative solutions to remediation, redevelopment, tax incentives, and waste management.

She represents and counsels a diverse mix of clients in numerous matters throughout the country. These matters include compliance and permitting; alternative energy issues; responding to an emergency; siting new facilities; civil and criminal enforcement; compliance audits; brownfields; tax incentives; remediation of contaminated sites; insurance claims; administrative procedures; solid and hazardous waste; landfills; composting; and occupational safety and health.
Gotthelf has served as general counsel to the Michigan Chapter of the National Association of Surface Finishers since 1990; Better Business Bureau Board member (2012-present); former general counsel to the Wayne County Brownfield Authority. She has represented the Wayne County Department of Environment on a broad variety of issues, including the Detroit bankruptcy as it related to the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department; wastewater treatment plant expansion, upgrade and compliance; wet weather; landfills; remediation; and ordinance amendments.

She has been very active in the Bar, including past service as: Vice Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) Section of Natural Resources, Energy and Environmental Law, Water Quality and Wetlands; former Vice Chair of the Section’s Keystone Committee; Chair of the State Bar of Michigan Environmental Law Section; and Chair of the Environmental Law Committee of the Oakland County Bar Association. She is a past member of the State Bar Representative Assembly on behalf of Oakland County.

In addition, Gotthelf is on the board of the Better Business Bureau. She is an active member of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Environmental Committee, past member of the Chambers Leadership Committee for Transportation, and is past Chair of the Chamber’s Task Force on Water and Sewer Issues. She is Chair of the City of Birmingham (Michigan) Brownfield Authority (2005-present). On behalf of industry, she served on the Federal Advisory Committee charged with recommending stormwater rules and served as a Director of the Detroit Area Commercial Board of Realtors, which covers the State of Michigan. Gotthelf served as an arbitrator for the National Arbitration Forum.

Gotthelf was recently named to Michigan Lawyers Weekly’s 2019 Class of Leaders in the Law. She also was selected as one of 20 influential leaders by Michigan Lawyers Weekly – Women in Law (2010). She was listed as one of the “Top 100 Michigan Super Lawyers” by Michigan Super Lawyers (2006, 2007, 2008) and as one of the “Top 50 Female Michigan Super Lawyers” (2006, 2008, 2014 and 2015). She also is listed in Michigan Super Lawyers, Environmental (2006-2018). She has received a number of awards and special recognitions, including as an emerging leader by the Detroit Regional Chamber (2003); the National Association of Surface Finishers (2002); Corp! Magazine as one of “Michigan’s 95 Most Powerful Women” (2002); Corp! Magazine’s “Top 10 Business Attorneys for Southeast Michigan” (1999); and Crain’s Detroit Business’ 40 emerging leaders under age 40 (40 Under 40) (1994).

She has authored articles of national interest for the ABA on Proposed Wastewater Regulations and Underground Storage Tanks, and authored a public policy update on the Detroit wastewater ordinance amendments for Detroiter. National lectures include National Brownfields Conference (2008); Walsh College “FIN or Else: FIN 47” Seminar; Urban Land Use Planning (2007); COATING 2005 on “Doing Business in China”; the ABA Annual Meetings, Section of Natural Resources, Energy and Environmental Law concerning general practice (2007) and water issues (2004 and 2002); “A Civil Reaction: Confronting Environment Problems in the New Millennium” (1997); “Annual Fundamentals of Real Estate Taxation” (1997, 1998, 2000, 2001 and 2002); and at the National Association of Metal Finishers, “Federal Wastewater Pretreatment Issues.”
Gotthelf’s charitable activities include serving as Co-Chair of the Gleaners Food Bank Women’s Power Breakfast fundraiser (2015); Board member and eventually President of the Board of Trustees for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Michigan Chapter (1996-2008); Board member and eventually Chair of the Board of Trustees of Oakland Plus Foundation (2005-11); Trustee of the Jewish Vocational Services (2000-15); member of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, State Government Relations Oversight Committee (2004-present); member of the Board of Directors for the University and Cancer Foundation (2000-07), to name a few.

Gotthelf earned a J.D. the University of Detroit Mercy in 1985. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Administration and Public Policy from Oakland University in 1980.

About Butzel Long

Butzel Long is one of the leading law firms in Michigan and the United States. It was founded in Detroit in 1854 and has provided trusted client service for more than 160 years. Butzel’s full-service law offices are located in Detroit, Bloomfield Hills, Lansing and Ann Arbor, Mich.; New York, NY; and, Washington, D.C., as well as alliance offices in Beijing and Shanghai. It is an active member of Lex Mundi, a global association of 160 independent law firms. Learn more by visiting or follow Butzel Long on Twitter @butzel_long or :

Spotlight on the News: Meet Wayne Cty. Comm. Chair Alisha Bell & Oakland U. President Ora Pescovitz

March 10, 2019

WXYZ Detroit

By: Chuck Stokes

WXYZ DETROIT — On Sunday, March 10, Spotlight on the News will interview Alisha Bell, the new Chair of the Wayne County Commission and Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, M.D., the President of Oakland University. What’s their vision for the institutions they lead?

Spotlight on the News, now in its 54th season, is Michigan’s longest-running weekly news and public affairs television program. It airs every Sunday at 10:00 a.m. on WXYZ-TV/Channel 7 in Detroit and 2:30 p.m. on 23.1 WKAR-HD in East Lansing and 6 p.m. on 23.2 WKAR World.

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Workforce solution? Tuition help for workers that actually helps

October 21, 2018

Crain’s Detroit

By: Chad Livengood

With employers scrambling to find new workers with the right talents and skills to fill critical jobs, perhaps they’re already under the companies’ roofs.

Many companies offer tuition assistance or reimbursement programs for employees to go back to school and earn a certificate or degree or just to take certain courses to hone skills the employer needs.

But there’s a big barrier for employees to enroll in college courses: the upfront cost.

For example, a single three-credit-hour graduate class at Wayne State University costs $2,100. At Oakland University, taking junior-level courses part time (nine credit hours) to finish a bachelor’s degree costs nearly $4,500. Per semester.

Credit card giant Discover Financial Services Inc. found the upfront cost caused lower-level call center employees to drop their higher-education ambitions because they simply couldn’t afford to front the cost of tuition, books and fees — and then wait months for reimbursement.

“That’s an enormous cash-flow problem,” said Jon Kaplan, chief learning officer for Discover Financial Services.

At an employee town hall meeting in June, the Riverwoods, Ill.-based credit card company announced a change in its tuition reimbursement benefit to a tuition remission where the company pays three universities directly for their employees’ tuition, books, fees and any taxes if the benefits exceed the $5,250 federal limit for educational reimbursements.

“There was an audible gasp from the audience when we rolled it out,” Kaplan said Tuesday during a discussion at a Detroit Regional Chamber breakfast meeting at the Detroit Athletic Club.

Kaplan was making a case to business leaders in attendance that they should rethink their tuition reimbursement programs as one solution to addressing the talent gap.

“We think it’s going to be a very minimal expense to get 1,000 people every year enrolled in college,” Kaplan said.

There’s some evidence that tuition reimbursement programs do have a return on investment for employers. The Lumina Foundation studied Cigna Corp.’s tuition reimbursement program between 2012 and 2014 and found it had a 129 percent ROI for the global healthcare services company through fewer turnovers and staying with the company longer, cutting down on HR management costs.

Employees who used Cigna’s tuition benefit also saw their wages grow by 43 percent after they attained new skills and got promotions within the company, according to the Lumina study.

For switching to tuition remission model, there are some mechanics that each employer has to work out, Kaplan said.

Discover hired for-profit firm Guild Education to manage its tuition remission program and negotiate lower tuition charges with the three partnering universities — economies of scale that an individual employee couldn’t achieve on his or her own.

The credit card company requires each employee enrolled in its Discover College Commitment to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which can reduce the tuition bill, depending on what aid they qualify for.

Discover also is no longer policing its employees’ grades like it used to. Under its old tuition-reimbursement program, if an employee failed a college course they’d already been reimbursed for, they had to repay the company for the cost, Kaplan said.

“We actually found that our employees would quit,” Kaplan said. “They’d rather run than try to pay that back.” Under the new remission program, the company stops paying the tuition bill if an employee’s grades slip.

“We’ll pay for that D, we’ll pay for an F,” Kaplan said. “But you may not be able to get back into the program if you don’t increase your grades.”

And Discover Financial isn’t paying for degrees in poetry or Latin. The company has tailored its tuition remission benefit to seven specific degrees in fields that would benefit the company.

Discover company officials are trying to build loyalty in its existing lower-skilled workforce while getting them trained for jobs that require more skills.

It’s an interesting approach compared with the frantic hunt underway in most human resources departments right now for talent.

And for big businesses like Discover, it’s a new approach to tackling the talent crisis without waiting for some outside force — such as politicians — to fix the educational pipeline that more and more companies are finding to be broken.

“If you start investing in your frontline workers, it’s like putting chips on the table all over the place — you’re getting a lot of return for that,” Kaplan said. “It’s an easier way to build talent.”


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Butzel Long attorney Robin Luce Herrmann named a “2018 Honoree for Michigan Women in the Law” by Michigan Lawyers Weekly

Butzel Long attorney and shareholder Robin Luce Herrmann has been named a “2018 Honoree for Michigan Women in the Law” by Michigan Lawyers Weekly.

She is one of 30 female attorneys who will be honored during a luncheon on September 20, 2018 at the Detroit Marriott Hotel in Troy. The event will celebrate the individuals who have made meaningful and inspiring contributions to the legal community. Honorees also will be profiled in an upcoming edition of Michigan Lawyers Weekly.

Representing a broad array of clients, Herrmann concentrates her practice in the areas of media law, particularly defamation, privacy, and access issues; commercial litigation, including RICO; and civil rights. As the head of Butzel Long’s Media Team, she advises and litigates defamation, privacy, and access issues, including the Freedom of Information Act and the Open Meetings Act. She conducts pre-publication review of stories/broadcasts and responds to subpoenas seeking information from the press and newsgatherers. The Media Team advises a broad array of clients, including digital media, emerging technology groups and digital businesses needing advice on First Amendment issues, data protection and cybercrimes.

At the same time, she serves as General Counsel to the Michigan Press Association, the official trade association for the newspapers of Michigan, with more than 300 members throughout the State. Herrmann has extensive trial and appellate experience in both state and federal courts in a variety of areas. Herrmann also is responsible for leading internal and external (client) teams involved in multi-million-dollar litigation to conduct discovery, develop strategy, and prepare for trial.

Herrmann was a Professor, Law of the Press, Oakland University, Journalism Department. Further, she is a highly sought-after speaker and presenter. She has been a guest speaker on Law of the Press: Wayne State University, Central Michigan University, and Oakland University.

She also was Co-Editor, The Developing Labor Law, Chapter 30: RICO, 2004-Present. Moreover, she was a Contributing Editor, The Developing Labor Law, Chapter 30: RICO, 1999-2004.

Herrmann is a member of the State Bar of Michigan and served in leadership roles including Chair: Law and the Media Committee 2013 to 2017; Publications and Website Advisory Committee, 2001-2009; and, Editor of the Michigan Bar Journal.

She has co-authored numerous articles including, Michigan Media Law – A News Room Guide; Media Law Resource Center Libel, Privacy and related surveys for Michigan the 6th Circuit since 1993; and, Overview of Defamation Law, published by the Law and Media Committee of the ABA.

Herrmann is a member of the Executive Committee of The Defense Counsel Section of the Media Law Resource Center (MLRC). In addition to leadership roles with the MLRC, she has been a member of the Governing Committee of the ABA Forum on Communications Law since 2012 and is a past Co-Chair of its Women in Communications Law Committee. Herrmann has served as Co-Chair for the Forum’s Diversity Moot Court Competition since 2016.

She also acted as Young Detroit Builders (YDB) pro bono counsel for more than a dozen years.

Herrmann earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Michigan and a Juris Doctor from the Detroit College of Law.

About Butzel Long

Butzel Long is one of the leading law firms in Michigan and the United States. It was founded in Detroit in 1854 and has provided trusted client service for more than 160 years. Butzel’s full-service law offices are located in Detroit, Bloomfield Hills, Lansing and Ann Arbor, Mich.; New York, NY; and, Washington, D.C., as well as alliance offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Mexico City and Monterrey. It is an active member of Lex Mundi, a global association of 160 independent law firms. Learn more by visiting or follow Butzel Long on Twitter:

Clayton & McKervey awards annual accounting scholarships to two Oakland University students

Rob Dutkiewicz, president of Clayton & McKervey, a certified public accounting and business advisory firm helping closely held businesses compete in the global marketplace, is pleased to announce the recipients of two scholarships awarded through Oakland University’s School of Business Administration. The awards for the Clayton & McKervey Scholarship and the Dutkiewicz Family Scholarship were presented April 13 at the OU Accounting and Finance Department’s Spring Banquet.

The Clayton & McKervey Scholarship was awarded to Carolyn Schweiger, a senior at OU majoring in accounting and minoring in management information systems. A resident of Richmond, Mich., Carolyn is currently an intern at Lear Corporation. The Dutkiewicz Family Scholarship was presented to Kevin Doody, a Lake Orion, Mich., resident who graduates this spring with a Master of Accounting.

“Clayton & McKervey has a passion to help others succeed,” Dutkiewicz said. “It is our privilege to partner with Oakland University’s business school to recognize students who have made an extra effort to achieve success in many facets of their lives, and we look forward to seeing them thrive in their future roles in the accounting and finance profession.”

The Clayton & McKervey Scholarship is a $1,500 annual scholarship established in 2011 to be applied to OU tuition for an undergraduate student who:
• Exhibits an outstanding combination of academic performance and extracurricular activities
• Has declared an accounting major and achieved major standing
• Is currently enrolled in at least one accounting major course at OU

The Dutkiewicz Family established its $2,500 annual scholarship in 2014 for a student who:
• Is a declared accounting or finance major with major standing
• Is currently enrolled in at least one accounting or finance major course at OU
• Has exhibited an outstanding combination of academic performance and extracurricular activities

More information about the criteria is available on OU’s SBA scholarship page.

In addition to the scholarship awards, the OU chapter of Beta Alpha Psi—an honorary organization for financial information students and professionals—named Rob Dutkiewicz its Business Information Professional of the Year at the banquet. Beta Alpha Psi annually presents this award to an honoree who has contributed to the profession through his or her position within the accounting, finance and information systems professions and through involvement in professional affairs and associations. Dutkiewicz, an OU alum who received his Bachelor’s degree in Accounting, currently serves on the OU School of Business Administration Board of Visitors.

About Clayton & McKervey
Clayton & McKervey is a full-service certified public accounting and business advisory firm helping closely held businesses compete in the global marketplace. The firm is headquartered in metro Detroit and services clients throughout the world. To learn more, visit