What exactly is a Promise Zone or a Promise Opportunity?
Promise Zones are a unique approach to creating community-based universal scholarship programs to raise educational attainment levels and promote economic development. The zones are public-private partnerships led by a local Promise Zone Authority Board composed of local public officials and private sector leaders. Promise Zones are a last-dollar scholarship. Rather than basing scholarships on need or merit, Promise Zones are place-based (for Newaygo County students) and universal.
Why is a Promise Zone good for Newaygo County?
They are a powerful tool for community and economic development. With this Newaygo County Promise Opportunity, we want to impact our workplace by providing a talented workforce and respond to knowledge-driven economies. Families will want their children to attend schools in Newaygo County. More students will stay in school, and more will go to college. We hope to see a spike in the number of students taking Advanced Placement courses and the number of graduates who earn their college degrees through the Newaygo County Promise.
This obviously comes at a cost. Are taxes going to go up for Newaygo County residents to pay for this new Promise Zone?
No. Simply put, instead of sending all of our tax dollars to Lansing, a portion stays here to pay for last dollar scholarships. Some of the tax dollars that we already pay will remain in our Newaygo County communities to pay for the last-dollar scholarships for our students.
How exactly is the Promise opportunity paid for?
All students who seek Promise scholarships must apply for federal student aid by filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form. This determines if the student is eligible for need-based aid, most often the federal Pell grant. Once the student’s total need-based grants (not loans) are determined, students will receive a Promise scholarship to pay the remainder of their bill for tuition and mandatory fees. Promise Zone Authorities solicit private donations to fund their scholarships and, beginning in their third year of operation, will qualify for state funds through a tax increment financing mechanism to capture or retain some of their tax dollars.
These three sources of funding—the student’s Pell grant or other need-based aid, private contributions and revenue from the state tax capture mechanism—will allow communities to keep their promise of educational opportunity.
How does tax increment financing work?
Tax increment financing is a mechanism that has been used to support various economic and community development projects—typically bricks and mortar projects that involve construction and infrastructure improvements. Michigan is the first state to use tax increment financing to expand higher education opportunities.
Once our Newaygo County Promise Zone Authority begins awarding scholarships, we are able to capture half of the growth in the State Education Tax within our zone’s boundaries to help pay for the Newaygo County Promise Opportunity, rather than sending it to Lansing.
What is required of the Promise Zone Authority Board?
The Newaygo County Promise Zone will be governed by an 11-member Promise Zone Authority Board. To encourage strong private sector involvement, no more than three members may be public officials. Nine authority members are appointed by the Superintendent of NC RESA and then approved by the NC RESA Board of Education. The leaders of the Michigan Legislature also appoint two members to our Board. The authority is charged with creating a development plan focused on what a community’s Promise will be and how it will be funded.
They decide when a Promise program will begin, and whether it will be for a two-year degree (the legal minimum), a four-year degree or something in between; and if the Promise will extend to any categories of students not mandated by law.
Who gets the Promise?
Promise Zones are required to provide scholarships to any student who lives in the Promise Zone and graduates from a high school located in the zone. These include graduates of public, private and parochial high schools. The Promise Zone Authority may prorate the amount of the scholarship based on the number of years a student has lived in and attended school in the Promise Zone. The authority may establish a grade point requirement for students to continue to receive their scholarships once they are in post-secondary education. They may limit the use of the scholarship to one or more public or private colleges or universities. These are decisions that will be made by the new Promise Zone Authority Board.
Where can the Promise be used?
The Promise Zone Authority may limit the use of the scholarship to one public or private higher education institutions. All students who qualify for the scholarship must have a tuition-free path to, at minimum, an associate’s degree at a community college. Authorities may begin by focusing on this required minimum, and then expand options to other institutions and to bachelor’s level degree. Promise Zone Authorities may also include non-degree programs and technical schools. Scholarships to private institutions must be limited to an amount not greater than the average tuition at Michigan’s state universities. All new Promise Zone Applicants beginning in 2018 must plan to attend Muskegon Community College or an approved apprenticeship program.
Has the Newaygo County Area Promise Zone Board established eligibility criteria?
Yes! The eligibility criteria for Newaygo County students to receive the Promise Scholarship can be found on our website, following the link: “How Does a Student Qualify” at http://promise.zone/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/How-Does-a-Student-Qualify.pdf
We do not live in the NC RESA service area. We live outside of the Newaygo County school districts boundaries, but have elected for Schools of Choice for more than 6 years to a Newaygo County high school. Does my student qualify?
No. You must be a resident of the NC RESA service area.
Is the GPA requirement based upon a weighted or unweighted GPA?
The GPA used for eligibility qualification will be the unweighted GPA.
Can I take summer classes?
An approved appeal is required for first year students. An appeal is not necessary for returning students to take summer classes either on a full-time or part-time schedule.
Do I need to spend my child’s 529 college savings account before accessing the Promise Scholarship?
No. Save your 529 dollars for your child’s junior and senior year of college. The Promise Scholarship will cover the first two years or the equivalent of an associate’s degree.
We’ve lived in Newaygo County for my child’s entire school career, but they attended a private school in Newaygo County for grades K-8. Then they transferred to a public high school in Newaygo County. Do they qualify?
Yes! The Promise Scholarship is available for students who attend public, private or parochial schools.
What fees are covered from the Promise Scholarship?
The Promise Scholarship covers tuition and mandatory fees up to 62 college credits for full-time students at an eligible institution. Funds are not allocated for books and/or housing costs.
Can I transfer from another college and still qualify for the Promise Scholarship?
Eligible students must begin use of scholarship funds within one year of high school graduation, and must plan to complete their Associates Degree at a Newaygo County Promise Zone eligible institution.