Muskegon Area Intermediate School District (MAISD) officials announced today that use of the two-year Muskegon Area Promise scholarships has exceeded expectations for 2017. The original planning model, based on historical data, estimated around 168 eligible students would stay local and enroll at either Baker College of Muskegon or Muskegon Community College. In total, 204 2017 graduates with grade point averages of 3.5 or higher chose to accept the Promise award. Projected savings to these families will top $750,000. Countywide this reflects a 12% increase in the number of recent high school graduates choosing to stay local for college.
MAISD Superintendent John Severson said he is elated so many high achieving students are choosing to stay local to further their educations. “We are fortunate to have two such high caliber colleges right here in Muskegon County, and clearly our parents and students agree,” said Severson. “Of course we want even more kids to achieve at higher levels and qualify. We need our entire community to get behind our kids in order to fully realize the power of the Promise,” said Severson.
In total, 495 high school graduates met the eligibility requirements that include a 3.5 or higher grade point average, residency within the MAISD boundaries and graduation from a public, charter, or private high school within the same boundaries. This is the first year the scholarship was made available to graduates of all 16 high schools countywide. Due to limited funding, scholarships were offered to Holton, Muskegon Heights, and Muskegon graduates who qualified during the first two years. Of the 68 who qualified, 29 chose to accept the scholarships.
Severson pointed out that the Promise was only a dream until the private and corporate investments of over one million dollars flowed in to make it a reality. “Hines Corporation, Nichols, Adac Automotive and the Alcoa Foundation stepped up with our first $100,000 level gifts and were followed closely with identical gifts from Quality Tool & Stamping, Verplank Trucking Company, the Dan & Sheryl Kuznar Family, and the Community Foundation for Muskegon County. Their investments and so many others all add up to directly benefit our families who live and work here, and build on our economic vitality,” said Severson.
Promise funding is made up of a mix of private, corporate, and public investments. This fall the MAISD received its first State Education Tax capture payment of $617,794. This payment from existing state tax revenue is only available to 15 established “Promise Zones” in Michigan. The amount of the annual payment will vary based on the growth of local property values.
“All of these resources work together to secure future scholarships and provide for sustainability,” said Severson. “Members of the ten-member Promise Zone Authority Board monitor the budget monthly to examine expenses and consider the need for additional donor support,” he said. “We are always looking for additional partners to position us to expand the scholarship and meet the increasing demands we expect to see,” he said.
The Michigan College Access Network (MCAN), which helped found the Local College Access Network named Muskegon Opportunity in 2006, has also been instrumental in establishing the Promise. MCAN funds were used this fall to initiate the “Dream Big” campaign in local schools. The campaign reaches preschool through high school students and includes direct mailings, indoor and outdoor Promise banners, stickers, rulers, posters, brochures, and pocket cards. “Our local schools are using these tools in innovative ways to leverage the Promise to motivate students at every grade level to achieve at higher levels and become an active part of our area’s college going culture,” said Severson.
“Experts from the W.E. Upjohn Institute have told us that by 2025, 64% of all job postings will require a certificate, associate or bachelor’s degree. Currently only 31% of the members of our current local workforce have these types of certifications and degrees. The Promise is the game-changer that will get us closer to where we need to be,” said Severson.