Today Muskegon Area Promise officials announced they have raised $1.37 million dollars as they clear the halfway mark toward their $2.5 million phase two fundraising goal. Gold-level investors with a gift of $100,000 or more include new investments from the Arconic Foundation, Frey Foundation, and Mercy Health with repeat gold-level funds from Hines Corporation, Nichols, ADAC Automotive,Dan & Sheryl Kuznar Family, and the Community Foundation for Muskegon County.
Muskegon Area Intermediate School District (MAISD) Superintendent John Severson serves on the eleven member Promise Zone Authority Board that monitors the two-year scholarship budget and examines expenses. He said the board is grateful for the support gathered from individuals, businesses and organizations, but the Promise needs even more funds to meet the strong demand.
“The Promise has taken off in a way we could not have imagined. Our top students want to stay here in Muskegon. We need everyone to work together to secure future scholarships and make it sustainable,” Severson said. “With a record breaking 441 Promise recipients starting classes this fall, we need even more partners to help us grow local talent and improve our economy,” he added.
The trend of a larger than expected number of Promise Scholars includes 235 graduates from the class of 2019 who accepted the two-year scholarship and 206 returning college students. This year alone, Muskegon Area families will save a projected $1,756,022 on tuition and fees at Muskegon Community College and Baker College of Muskegon. To qualify for the Promise students had to graduate high school with a 3.5 GPA and reside within the MAISD boundaries.
Scholarships continue to be funded through a mix of private, corporate, and public investments. Muskegon County is one of 15 established Promise Zones in Michigan making it eligible to capture a portion of the State Education Tax based on the growth of local property values. Over the last two years, the Promise has captured $1,285,591 in tax dollars to fund scholarships. By 2024-25 these funds are expected to sustain the Promise.
Before the Muskegon Area Promise could begin receiving dollars from the state, a significant amount of private funding was required. In 2015, the first phase of funding was led by Hines Corporation, Nichols, ADAC Automotive and the Alcoa Foundation. Each made a $100,000 level investment. They were followed closely with identical investments from Quality Tool & Stamping, Verplank Trucking Company, the Dan & Sheryl Kuznar Family, and the Community Foundation for Muskegon County. Investments from a variety of individuals, companies, and organizations raised over one million dollars. The phase two fundraising campaign was put in place in 2019 to meet a funding gap created by the high demand for scholarships.
By 2025, 64% of all job postings will require a certificate, associate or bachelor’s degree, according to the W.E. Upjohn Institute. Currently only 35% of the local workforce has 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.
Samuel D. Hansen, the first Muskegon Area Promise Scholar and graduate of Muskegon High School in 2015, will complete his bachelor’s degree in marketing and sales in December from Michigan State University. Hansen said, “Muskegon has wonderful people who want to help you grow and succeed! I cannot wait to be in a position to also give back and help others!”