LANSING, Mich., June 1, 2021 – State Rep. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) and state Sen. Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia) introduced legislation to create the Michigan Opportunity Scholarship. The Michigan Opportunity Scholarship would create a pathway for all Michigan students to pursue an affordable college education. Under the legislation, high school students in good academic standing would be eligible for free community college or reduced tuition at a four-year public or not-for-profit university. To be eligible, students must have lived in Michigan for at least one year and enroll in college classes the fall after they graduate high school. Applicants must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to receive financial assistance.
Economic analysts conclude that 75 percent of all Michigan jobs will soon require some level of post-secondary education. Yet, the high price of tuition poses a significant barrier for many low and middle income families. Student borrowers in Michigan carry approximately $50.3 billion in outstanding debt, with individual student debt averaging $36,179.
“I think people are finally starting to realize that closing the skills gap will ultimately benefit all of us,” Anthony said. “The MI Opportunity scholarship is an essential step forward for our state. We need to invest in our people, and that starts with helping equip students with the knowledge and skills they want and need to achieve economic stability and success.”
The program was originally championed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in her 2019 State of the State address as a part of her broader goal to bring Michigan up to 60 percent college attainment by the year 2030. The bills to create the scholarship were first introduced in early 2020 but failed to make it through the committee process. Anthony feels hopeful in light of the passage and funding of the Michigan Reconnect program last year and the implementation of the Futures for Frontliners program during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Post-secondary education is increasingly important to compete in the job market. However, the cost of education can be prohibitive to some students. For that reason, I am pleased to sponsor the Michigan Opportunity Initiative Act,” Polehanki said. “This will help provide students with the resources to advance their education, while at the same time improving the skill level of the workforce of our state.”