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Muskegon Area Promise officials expand eligibility requirements to graduating seniors

Graduation photo

Muskegon Area ISD says lowering GPA benchmark "underscores a commitment to inclusivity."

In an effort to provide greater secondary education access to high school graduates on the Lakeshore, The Muskegon Area Promise Authority Board Friday announced its decision to lower the GPA eligibility requirement needed to qualify.

Established in 2015, the Muskegon Area Promise is a program that provides free tuition for the first two years of a bachelor's degree at either Baker or Muskegon Community College provided the graduating senior maintained a GPA of 3.5 or higher.

While officials say the program has been a wild success since its inception, many have felt the bar may have been set a little too high, and there are hundreds of students just below the qualifying mark, where free tuition could be the difference between continuing their education or not.

“We knew if we were going to serve more students and have that equity lens really at the forefront, we have to lower our GPA.”

That is Megan Byard-Karaba, College Access Specialist at the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District (MAISD) as students now only need a 3.25 GPA or to rank in the top 30% of their graduating class to qualify.

Currently, Muskegon is suffering from a shortage of workers to fill open job positions; with the idea that expanding the Promise is a way of cultivating home-grown talent to meet those needs.

“We’re excited about the expansion of the Promise,” Muskegon Area ISD Superintendent, Randy Lindquist said,. “It is going to give more students the opportunity to stay local, and then to give them hopefully a career choice in Muskegon County. Very exciting.”

Officials say the expansion could potentially impact an additional 200 students per year. To qualify, students must graduate from schools that reside within the MAISD service area.