OP-ED: Don’t Let The Pandemic Change Your College Plans

By Ashley Johnson

Many students may be wondering about the next step in their education given the uncertainty of the past year. High school seniors have had to do many things differently this year: School was online; homecoming was virtual; many proms were held outdoors. Even graduation looked a little different. But the Class of 2021 overcame this unprecedented adversity. And now they’re on their way to what’s next: Education beyond high school.


Although campuses are still grappling with plans to bring students back on campus, students should know that college is still an option. Students with some training after high school—whether that’s a year of training for a professional certificate or four years of college—earn more, learn more, and tend to be more civically involved, healthier, and live longer. College isn’t just another couple of years of school. It is the difference between thriving and simply surviving in life. College is the difference between living check-to-check and barely making ends meet versus thriving in a career field that aligns with your passions and the financial means to save for the future.


For students in Detroit, free college is still an option. The ability to pursue a more stable future is within reach.


Since 2013, the Detroit Promise has offered a tuition-free pathway to a college degree to more than 4,800 students. This opportunity is also available for the Class of 2021 and 2022. The Detroit Promise offers last-dollar scholarship funding for residents of Detroit to attend two-year colleges and four-year universities. To be eligible for the two-year college pathway students must live in and attend high school in Detroit for two years, graduate high school and complete the FAFSA. To be eligible for the four-year college scholarship students must live in and attend high school in Detroit for four years, have at least a 3.0 GPA, graduate high school, apply and get accepted to an eligible four-year college and complete the FAFSA. The Detroit Promise funding is not competitive; every student who registers and meets the requirements will receive funding.


If you think the Promise is too good to be true, think again.  All you must do is register during your senior year, apply and get accepted to an eligible college and sign the Promise commitment form to indicate which college to send your scholarship funding.


But the support doesn’t end there: Many colleges participating in the Promise program have dedicated support teams on campus ready to make sure the transition to college is successful.  They’ll be there to support you, help you put together your schedule of classes, cheer you on and help you overcome some of the common barriers that you might face.


Each student utilizing the two-year Detroit Promise scholarship will be assigned a Campus Coach through the Detroit Promise Path program. Campus Coaches connect students with on-campus student resources, support their educational journey and personal growth and assist with educational goal achievements. In addition to the benefit of having a dedicated, knowledgeable coach, each scholar participating in the Detroit Promise Path will receive a monthly stipend of $50 and be connected to a community of Detroit Promise scholars.


The COVID-19 pandemic and the way it has upended society might dissuade some from pursuing higher education, but don’t be fooled.   Do not miss out on a free pathway to a college degree!


Entering and completing college isn’t easy, but it’s even more challenging for first-generation students and students of color. There are worthy programs out there designed specifically to help students financially, socially, and academically to ensure they thrive and complete their degree. Detroit Promise is one such program, and I encourage any Detroit student to pursue this free pathway to a college degree.


Learn more here.


Ashley Johnson is a program officer at The Kresge Foundation supporting the work of the Education Program. Prior to joining the foundation, she served as the Executive Director of the Detroit Promise program and remains passionate in the pursuit of ensuring every student has an opportunity to achieve a postsecondary degree regardless of their financial situation.


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