University Of Michigan Is Eliminating A Big Barrier For Low-Income Students To Get College Education

It’ll have to be earned, but it’s definitely worth it.

In an effort to give low-income students the opportunity to attend the University of Michigan, the selective state school is now offering students who come from families that make less than $65,000 a year free tuition for all for years of college.

Known as the Go Blue Guarantee, the plan — announced earlier this month — stipulates that any Michigan family earning less than $65,000 a year won't have to pay a dime for four years toward their student's tuition at U-M's Ann Arbor campus. "Today, our long-standing commitment to ensuring that qualified students from Michigan can afford a U-M education becomes a guarantee," University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel said in a statement.



According to the Detroit Free Press, the Go Blue Guarantee was put in place in an effort to address the economic diversity found in Michigan. Though typically around 70 percent of the university's freshman class is White and hails from families that make upwards of $75,000 a year, 70 percent of the students in the predominantly AfricanAmerican Ypsilanti School District (just a 15-minute drive from U of M, according to the newspaper) are classified by the state as economically disadvantaged and would never be able to afford tuition.

The plan is expected to make the University of Michigan more accessible to low-income students over time, but since the university has notoriously tough admissions requirements (which won't change based on income), experts say it could be several years before there's any marked change in the makeup of the student body.

"It's going to be good for some, but will it make a big impact here? Not right away," Ypsilanti schools' Superintendent Ben Edmondson tells the Detroit Free Press. "What it does do is help me as I reset the culture here."

The plan will take effect in January 2018, and at that time any current or future in-state student whose family makes $65,000 or less a year will be eligible for free tuition for four years. Four years of tuition for in-state students would typically cost about $60,000, and the program is expected to cost the university between $12 million and $16 million a year.

Even though the program may take some time to make an impact, students and families are already taking note of it. "I hadn't even been considering U-M," Salvador Michaels, 17, of Grand Rapids, tells the Detroit Free Press. "I didn't really think I could afford it. But if they are going to make tuition free — that makes it doable."

Skyrocketing college costs are an issue nationwide, and several lawmakers have recently begun to address the problem in their respective states. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation in April creating the Excelsior Scholarship, a plan to provide free tuition to residents whose families earn less than $125,000 per year to any of New York's state universities, city colleges, or community colleges.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee formulated a similar plan back in February when he made community college free to all city residents through the City College of San Francisco. According to CNBC, San Francisco's plan does not take need into consideration. Tennessee and Oregon also have similar plans in place.

Though it can be incredibly difficult to qualify for financial aid at a particular school, many elite colleges and universities also offer full rides to eligible students from low-income families

(H/T: Detroit Free Press)

Cover image via Unsplash

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