Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced Monday that the Detroit College Promise scholarship program, a part of the Detroit Public Schools Foundation, will be expanded provide full free tuition in four-year college programs to students who graduate from Detroit Public Schools.

The program has provided last-dollar scholarship funding — a program that aims to fill the financial gap left by scholarships to cover additional expenses to more than 700 students. Previously, the program covered expenses that were not otherwise met by federal aid, including tuition fees, but the scholarships were not full coverage awards, which would satisfy all student expenses.

The new expansion has been introduced as a pilot plan to be tested with students from the 2016 graduating class and next year’s 2017 class, according to a press release from Duggan’s office.

Private funding from the Michigan Education Excellence Foundation, a Lansing-based nonprofit organization, helped support the expansion into full tuition, MEEF hopes to raise $25 million to support the program over the next two years, according to its website. The organization did not respond to a request for comment on funding that has been raised so far.

Gov. Rick Snyder (R), who joined Duggan to announce the expansion, said in a press release that the program is now the largest program of its kind in the nation.

“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,” he said.

For students to qualify for free tuition to two- or four-year programs, they must earn at least a 3.0 grade point average and score 21 on the ACT exam or 1,060 on the SAT. Students must have spent all four years of high school living in Detroit and attending a DPS school to qualify for four-year funding, and at least their junior and senior years to qualify for two-year funding.

From the 2015 graduating class, 183 DPS students were provided funding to attend college programs in Michigan, according to the Detroit Promise program’s website. Twenty-three enrolled at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

LSA sophomore Sidney Arrington was awarded $275 in funding from the Detroit Promise in 2015 to supplement her studies. She said she feels the expansion of the program builds on the availability of opportunity for Detroit students to ultimately contribute to the growth of the city.

“I think the expansion of the program is an excellent idea,” she said. “Higher education is very important and it is not fair for students to struggle financially to pay for college when they are trying to better themselves and ultimately give back to society.”

In the release, Duggan stated that the Detroit Promise is important in enabling Detroit students to overcome boundaries that would otherwise prevent them from growing through higher education.

“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,” Duggan said.

Similarly, LSA sophomore Calahna Butler, who received financial aid from the program, said ability to pay tuition is a one major roadblock between Detroit students and higher education and expansion of the program will allow students to find new opportunities.

“It’s a chance for many students in Detroit to experience life outside the city,” she said. “Money is a major concern when applying to colleges, and knowing that they can have a chance at a four-year institution without having to worry about tuition is a blessing.”

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