Engineering sophomore Jacky Giang relies exclusively on financial aid to pay for his education at the University. With his family’s finances tight, he’s taking a work-study position this fall and seeking a part-time job.

Will you be affected by the potential lose of the Michigan Promise Scholarship?

Choices

For Giang and more than 5,000 other students at the University, paying for school this year could become even more difficult than anticipated as the state struggles with a decision about whether to follow through with a cut to the Michigan Promise Scholarship.

Signed into law by Gov. Jennifer Granholm in 2006 as a way to increase college graduates in Michigan, the Michigan Promise Scholarship provides students from Michigan with grants totaling $500 to $4,000 over four years to help pay tuition. To become eligible, students must pass a certain mark on a merit examination given in high school.

On June 23, the state legislature voted to cut funding for the scholarship, which provides grants for over 96,000 college students.

The elimination of the scholarship would save the state approximately $140 million at a time when legislators, facing a looming $2.8 billion deficit, are looking to cut wherever possible, especially in the Republican-controlled state Senate.

Granholm has vowed to save the scholarship.

Megan Brown, Granholm’s deputy press secretary, said the governor “continues to support the Michigan Promise Scholarship because it is our first universal scholarship and, as such, supports our belief that everyone should continue their education beyond high school.”

Granholm has come out in favor of reducing the program’s funding if it means keeping it alive.

The deadline for a resolution is October 1, which marks the start of the 2010 fiscal year.

According to Pamela Fowler, the University’s executive financial aid director, 3,152 students received more $3 million from the Michigan Promise Scholarship during the 2007-2008 school year, the most recent year for which such information is available.

Margaret Rodriguez, the University’s senior associate director of financial aid, said there’s an estimated 5,000 students at the University slated to receive the scholarship this academic year.

In response to concerns from students and parents regarding the potential end of the scholarship, the Office of Financial Aid sent out e-mails on August 13 to students awaiting word on whether the funding will be cut.

Students who receive need-based financial aid in addition to the Michigan Promise Scholarship were told to pay the balances on their student accounts minus the grant amount they would receive through the scholarship. If the funds do not come through, the e-mail said, the students would be considered for “additional aid,” though these supplemental awards are not guaranteed.

The e-mail stated that students who do not receive need-based financial aid should “make arrangements to cover the amount of your Michigan Promise Scholarship with other resources,” and if the scholarship ultimately comes through, the scholarship sum will then be credited to the student’s account.

“We will honor our commitment to students who have need but we are not responsible for all state programs,” Fowler said. “Any scholarship is important to students to pay for their education, especially in the state of Michigan where we have a lot of families who don’t have the resources they had a year ago.”

LSA junior Kimberly Tolbert, who was supposed to receive $1,000 this year through the Michigan Promise Scholarship, said the timing of the notifications left little room to change her plans regarding tuition payment.

Tolbert, who also receives other financial aid, said that if the scholarship doesn’t come through she will look toward other forms of financial aid and scholarships.

“It’s really unfortunate if they do, cause I know that the e-mail got sent toward the end of the summer and we’re still expected to pay the full amount that we owe, so a lot of people have to do that last minute, scrambling. Maybe if we’d known earlier, then plans could have been made more in advance,” Tolbert said.

— Libby Ashton contributed to this report.

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