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Lawmakers push to expand Promise scholarship in Michigan

Nov 17, 2015

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A pair of bills moving through the state Legislature would increase the number of "promise zones" in Michigan.

The Promise scholarship program lets certain high poverty communities use a combination of private and state money to guarantee college tuition or other post-secondary education funding for local students.

Right now, state law allows for 10 promise zones. The bills would bump that up to 15.

Sen. Jim Ananich, D-Flint, is sponsoring one of the bills

"College debt is now past credit card debt. It's the most amount of personal debt anyone has. It's getting to the point where it's becoming insurmountable, and we've got to do something about it," Ananich said.

Promise scholarships are funded through a combination of state and federal financial aid, and private donations.

Communities also receive state matching dollars, but they must first fund the program for two years on their own to prove its stability.

Ananich said promise zones have had "varying levels of success" when it comes to meeting the sustainability goal.

"This program isn't the end all be all [to college affordability]," Ananich said. "It's just one component that may give communities an opportunity to take advantage of a good program."

Both bills have cleared the state Senate and have been referred to a committee.