MUSKEGON – Earlier today, a dozen businesses and individuals were recognized for being the first to commit $759,500 total in a new “Dream Bigger” fundraising campaign for the Muskegon Area Promise. Officials announced that new investments are coming in daily, with many conversations underway. The dollars are critical to meeting the unexpected high demand for the two-year scholarships, requiring an additional $2.5 million in private funding over the next six years.
“Initially we expected many of these top students with 3.5 and higher grade point averages to head off to four-year universities,” said MAISD Superintendent John Severson. “In reality, about half of the eligible students recognized the quality of our local colleges and were eager to lighten their financial load,” he explained. “We also experienced an 84% return rate–well above the typical 49% rate,” Severson added.
To earn the Promise Scholarship students must graduate with a 3.5 GPA, live within Muskegon County, and have graduated from one of 16 high schools within Muskegon County. In 2018, twenty-seven percent or 503 graduating seniors were eligible for the scholarship that pays for two-years at Muskegon Community College or Baker College of Muskegon and a $500 annual book stipend.
According to Promise Board Chair and businessman Steve Parker, 460 students have benefited from the scholarship since 2015 when its launch was made possible with over one million dollars in private funding. “I am proud of our community leaders and businesses for investing in our own economic development and growing our local talent right here. I am confident many more will join us in meeting our new investment goal,” said Parker.
The additional $2.5 million investment is expected to sustain the Promise until 2024. At that time, it is projected to be fully funded by capturing a portion of the growth in the existing State Education Tax (SET). Muskegon County is one of 15 established Promise Zones in Michigan making it eligible to capture a portion of the SET based on the growth of local property values. Over the next six years, this tax capture funding will bring up to $14 million dollars to Muskegon County. Promise officials raised over one million dollars and collected $1.3 million in SET since the initial launch of the Promise in 2015.
Hines Corporation, Nichols, ADAC Automotive, the Community Foundation for Muskegon County, Mercy Health, Eklund Holdings, LLC, Sheryl & Dan Kuznar Family, Kathy & Steve Parker Family, Julie & Pat Donahue Family, MasterTag, Swanson Pickle Company, and Executive Air Transport have all invested in the Dream Bigger campaign of 2019.
Donations are being accepted through the Community Foundation for Muskegon County.
“The power of the Promise is that it creates our very own talent pipeline,” said Severson. “Our Promise Scholars today are our future employees tomorrow!”