FLINT, Michigan — More than 300 Flint graduates are taking advantage of a new opportunity that lets them earn their college degrees free of charge through the newly-launched Flint Promise scholarship.
In its first year, officials said it was hard to predict how many applications they would receive — but by any measure the number of young people pursuing higher education is staggering.
“To be honest, I was thinking about college, but I had no idea how I was going to pay for it,” said Matthew Thornton, 17, a senior at the International Academy of Flint. “Free college? My mind was blown.”
The Flint Promise is open to students up to age 24 who live in Flint and graduate from a Flint public, private or charter school or GED program. For graduates who attended all four years of high school in Flint, they are guaranteed a scholarship that covers 100 percent of college tuition, books, and fees at Mott Community College for a two-year degree and at the University of Michigan-Flint to complete a bachelor’s degree.
Applications are being accepted for students who will begin classes in the winter. Apply at theflintpromise.org/apply/
“The Flint Promise is a transformational opportunity for future Flint students,” said University of Michigan-Flint Chancellor Susan E. Borrego. “This will pave the way for students in our community to earn their Michigan degree.”
To put the 305 applicants (received as of Friday) in perspective, last year about 40 Flint students attended Mott Community College and the total number of Flint Community Schools graduates this year was 223. There are about 45 students in Matthew’s class at the International Academy of Flint, the city’s largest charter school.
“We’re extremely pleased with the interest we’ve seen so far in Flint Promise and are excited for the program to begin in the fall. By making college education accessible, the scholarship has the potential to open a lot of doors for students in Flint,” said James Avery, director of education and training for the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, which is administering the scholarship.
The Flint Promise initiative is spearheaded by the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, created with a $2 million commitment from Flint native and Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores as well as Consumers Energy.
“One way to move from poverty to prosperity is college,” said Isaiah Oliver, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint. Oliver is a graduate of Flint Northwestern High School and Central Michigan University.
Oliver said the opportunities being provided by the scholarship are just the first step in the Flint Promise.
“College is accessible … now what do we do to wrap our arms around the 300 young adults who are exploring their opportunity and support them,” said Oliver, noting that access is step one but ultimately success will be measured by “completion” — the number who earn their degree.
The Flint Promise scholarship covers costs remaining after Pell grants and other scholarships are applied. For students who live in Flint but attended a Flint high school for only a portion of their high school career receive a prorated amount of the scholarship.
The Flint Promise can be used for up to three years at Mott Community College to certification or an associates degree. Students are then guaranteed adminitance to the University of Michigan-Flint, where they have another three years use of the scholarship to complete their four-year bachelor’s degree in the area of study of their choice.
Gores' interest in a Promise scholarship program dates back to 2015 when he partnered with Magic Johnson on a $1 million campaign to create a Lansing Promise. Gores said at the time he would like to see a similar program created in Flint.
He then made creating the Flint Promise a top priority of his FlintNOW campaign, a $10-million pledge created in the wake of the Flint water crisis to support programs focused on relief and revitalization.