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House Democrats Propose Plan For Free Community College

May 21, 2018 - 4:56 pm

LANSING, Mich. (WWJ) -- A group of House Democrats has proposed a bill that would offer free community college tuition to those graduating from high school and people looking to retrain themselves for another career.

The HirED Opportunity Act aims to slash the cost of higher education by providing full-tuition scholarships to qualified individuals.

Bill sponsor Adam Zemke of Ann Arbor is confident that the relatively low cost of the proposal could make lawmakers approve it before the end of June.

“This is not something that we’re proposing that has a pie in the sky price tag or anything like that," Zemke said. "It’s a very reasonable proposal and the impact of it, I think, will be quite great. We’re very pleased about having that conversation while we’re still in the budget cycle.”

Individuals eligible for the program would include graduating high school seniors that enroll in a community college full-time, according WKAR, public media from Michigan State University. Students would be required to maintain a 2.0 grade point average and participate in community service programs.

Adults looking to go back to school and obtain a different degree or certification would also be eligible.

All individuals must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, the federal government's free student loan application. The HirED program would cover all remaining costs after FAFSA forms are completed.

While the most thought-of group of people looking into going to college is graduating high schoolers, Zemke said another purpose that community colleges help fulfill over the state of Michigan is helping people choose career paths.

"So we would allow those folks the freedom to go back to school and obtain different certificate or degree," he said.

The average Michigan college graduate begins their career with more than $30,000 in student loan debt, according to the Institute For College Access & Success.