Change Agents, City Transformation, Education, Giving Back, Job creation, youth programs

Detroit Promise offers city students free four-year tuition


More college for more kids.

That’s the goal of the Detroit Promise college scholarship program. It now offers Detroit high school seniors free tuition at four-year educational institutions.

To be eligible for the expanded four-year pilot program the students must live in Detroit, attend any Detroit high school, have a 3.0 GPA or better and score more than 21 on ACT or 1060 on SAT. It is available to four-year students that began this fall and also will include a second cohort that starts next fall.

Registration is now open for those graduating in summer 2017.

The additional funding is coming from private funds raised by the Michigan Education Excellence Foundation (MEEF), and the Promise partners are now developing options for the further extension of the program. The Detroit Regional Chamber is one of those partners.

Detroit Promise staff are visiting Detroit high schools to explain the program. Interested students can also talk to counselors or advisers to get more information and visit the Detroit Regional Chamber website for information on eligibility and to register.


“The Detroit Promise is changing lives,” says Mayor Mike Duggan. “This program is one of the most significant ways we are removing barriers to opportunity for young Detroiters so they can realize their full potential in life without the burden of student debt.”

Earlier this year the mayor launched the Detroit Promise Zone Authority that would permanently dedicate a portion of tax dollars to fund the two-year scholarships for any student who graduates from a high school in Detroit, whether public, private or charter. The money can also only be used at five community colleges in metro-Detroit. They are Henry Ford Community College, Wayne County Community College District, Schoolcraft College, Macomb Community College and Oakland Community College.

In the current academic year, more than 700 are receiving two-year or four-year, last-dollar scholarships – funding that covers any shortfall after other financial aid such as Pell Grants have been applied.

There is also a new success coaching program called Detroit Promise Path for Detroit Promise students attending community colleges. It’s modeled on an approach piloted in New York community colleges, which has resulted in graduation rates doubling among low-income, first-generation community college students.

Launched in 2013, the Detroit Promise program grew out of a collaborative effort between the Detroit Regional Chamber, Gov. Snyder and the Michigan Education Excellence Foundation (MEEF), which created and raised funds for the Detroit Scholarship Fund. In the past three years, nearly 2,000 Detroit high school graduates have had the opportunity to attend community college, tuition-free.

“The Detroit Promise is opening wide the doors of higher education opportunity to the young people of Detroit,” says Gov. Rick Snyder.  “Michigan’s largest city is now also the largest city in the United States to guarantee all its young people the opportunity to earn a college degree tuition-free.”

The MEEF and the Detroit Regional Chamber will continue to fund the scholarships until the Detroit Promise Zone tax capture is permitted in 2018.

“In order for Detroit to compete and win in the 21st century global economy, the city needs world-class talent” says Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber. “We’re pleased to partner with Governor Snyder, Mayor Duggan, education partners and the funders to fulfill the Detroit Promise, and see post-secondary degrees increase in the city of Detroit.”

There is another program with a very similar name – the Detroit College Promise – that has been providing Detroit Public School students with scholarships for the past eight years.

As of July 1, 2015, the Detroit College Promise became a program of the Detroit Public Schools Foundation, which started processing scholarships beginning with the 2016-17 college academic year, and will continue for future years. Click here for details. For more information please contact them at (313) 873-3414 or


Here are the requirements:

  • Attend a DPSCD or DPSCD authorized charter school from 9th-12th grades
  • Live in Detroit from 9th- 12th grades
  • Have applied for federal financial aid (FAFSA)
  • Accepted to, and attend, a Michigan college or university

The scholarship amount of aid varies, depending upon the funds available.

During the 2015-16 college academic year, 183 students awarded scholarships, totaling $79,800.

Detroit has always been thought of as a city of physical labor and blue collar grit, and that is an important part of its past and present.  These programs show the rest of the world and the the city itself that it has more to offer than just that.

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