Leaders break promise to Michigan students

The Michigan Promise Scholarship, a valuable scholarship for students who scored well on their Michigan Merit Exam, was eliminated Friday, Oct. 30.

Cynthia Van Pelt, Eastern Michigan University’s Director of the Office of Financial Aid, was not surprised it was cut.
“The Michigan Promise was eliminated as it was included in the 2010 Michigan Budget discussions about budget cuts last winter. The cuts were made in order to reduce the State’s expenses.

The Governor still hopes to reinstate the Michigan Promise by funding it from another source but we have no further information on that at this time,” Van Pelt said.

“We had 1,493 Michigan Promise recipients in 2008-09, and we originally expected 2,200 to 2,400 possible recipients 2009-10 this year,” Van Pelt said. “We initially entered Michigan Promise awards on our records last February for some students when we received the first 2009-10 roster of eligible students from the Michigan Department of Treasury.

“However, we discontinued entering the awards from later rosters because we believed that the scholarship program would at least be reduced if not eliminated completely,” she said. “We felt it would be better for the students if we waited to put the awards on only if the program would be funded.”

Van Pelt said, “Michigan Promise Scholarship eligibility is based on the Michigan Merit Exam (MME) that students take in high school. Students who score at levels 1 or 2 in the exam sections qualified for the scholarship.

“The program pays $1,000 in the first year of college, $1,000 in the second year and then a final payment of $2,000 for students who have earned at least 60 credit hours (half way to a Bachelor’s degree) and have a college GPA of 2.5 or higher. The 2007-08 school year was the first year for the Michigan Promise scholarship payments.”

Sierra Cummings, a freshman and a psychology major, said, “I did not know that they had gotten rid of the Michigan Promise. That sucks, I think I did well on that test.”

“The Michigan Promise scholarship is not a need-based program, many of the Michigan Promise eligible students do not apply for financial aid,” Van Pelt said. This means that the scholarship was not given to students based on their financial need but based on how well they did on the Michigan Merit Exam (MME) and a student’s college GPA.

The Michigan Merit exam is taken in 11th grade in high school to assess math, reading, and social studies. However, the loss of a $1,000 scholarship will affect some EMU students even if they do not qualify for financial aid. The termination of a scholarship, according to Van Pelt, “creates a hardship for many families in this current economy.”

Tabitha Paterson, a senior and a criminal justice major at EMU, said, “Eastern is really willing to work with people in financial aid. If you need anything you should go talk to them.”

On the subject of EMU’s financial aid, Paterson said, “They are pretty good, but I think there should be more scholarships given for academic success like the Michigan Promise.”

To help students who were eligible for the Michigan Promise Scholarship who are now not receiving the money they were promised, the financial aid office is working to find out what other types of aid they might be eligible to receive.

Freshman Liz Scott, an electronic media and film major, said, “Financial aid at Eastern is all right, but there should be money given to the average student.”

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