Every high school student in Michigan who graduates in 2007 or later is now eligible for a $4,000 scholarship at any public university in the state.

To qualify for the Michigan Promise Scholarship, students must prove their status as Michigan residents and take a state assessment test. Students in the class of 2007 will take the Michigan Educational Assessment Program test. Future classes will take the newly-created Michigan Merit Exam.

Students who earn qualifying scores on the assessment test will receive up to $1,000 for their first two years of college and up to $2,000 if they complete two years of post-secondary education with at least a grade point average of at least 2.5. If a student doesn’t qualify for a scholarship at first, he or she can still earn the full $4,000 by completing two years of post-secondary school with at least a 2.5 GPA.

The Michigan Promise Scholarship will replace the Michigan Merit Award, which was established by the state Legislature in 1999. That award provided up to $3,000 to high school graduates. About 50,000 graduates annually received the scholarship. It was not contingent upon academic performance in college.

University administrators said they welcome the changes.

“The University supports anything that increases the pool of funds to University-bound students,” University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham said.

Al Hermsen, associate director of the Office of Financial Aid, said the changes have both pros and cons.

“The new scholarship is beneficial from a programmatic standpoint because it encourages students to stay enrolled in college, but it could be detrimental to students who cannot maintain a high enough GPA,” Hermsen said.

LSA freshman Brian Herrick said he appreciates the emphasis on GPA when evaluating a student’s qualifications for the scholarship.

“I think the new scholarship is positive because if you do well, you’re going to be awarded for your academic achievement,” Herricks said. “Some people don’t test well, and GPA is sometimes a better gauge of students’ potential.”

Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed legislation creating the Michigan Promise Scholarship during the University’s winter break last month at E.A. Johnson High School in Mt. Morris.

Granholm first proposed the Michigan Promise Scholarship in her 2005 State of the State address, calling it a “critical step for Michigan’s economy,” and noting that states with the highest number of college graduates have the lowest unemployment rates.

Lt. Gov. John Cherry’s Commission on Higher Education and Economic Growth had recommended that Granholm take steps to make college tuition more affordable. Members of the commission hope to double the number of college graduates in Michigan in the next decade.

“This is the future of the economy of the state,” Coleman said.

Cherry met with President Coleman last May to discuss the commission. During that meeting, Coleman said the University’s Ann Arbor campus had reached its capacity, but the Dearborn and Flint campuses could accommodate more students.

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