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Saginaw Valley State University joining other MI schools promising free tuition to eligible students

College graduates
steve carmody
Michigan Radio

A growing number of Michigan's public universities are offering free tuition programs for lower-income undergraduates.

Saginaw Valley State University announced on Tuesday that it is joining the group.

SVSU President Donald Bachand said in a written statement, "We have maintained the lowest tuition in the state for many years, but the sticker price still causes many families to think an SVSU degree is out of reach."SVSU's program, known as the SVSU Cardinal Commitment,  guarantees four years of free tuition to entering, full-time Michigan undergraduates, starting with the 2021 fall semester, whose family's adjusted gross income and specified total assets are $50,000 or less.

"First generation students, low income families, they just don't realize that college options are available to them," said Jennifer Pahl, SVSU's director of admissions. "And so this program is a way to let them know that the doors are open."

Daniel Hurley, CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities, said one goal of free tuition guarantees is to send a clear and concise message that college is affordable. He said that's important because information about college financial aid and the cost of college can be confusing for students and their families.

"The other goal is to boost the state's talent pipeline," said Hurley. "Higher educational attainment leads to higher incomes. We want to help more Michiganders receive those college degrees and have greater job security and greater earnings."

Hurley said that the criteria for Michigan's free tuition programs vary. Some are need-based, others geographically based, and others have academic performance requirements. Some are a combination.

Hurley said the free tuition programs are connected to Governor Gretchen Whitmer's push for 60% of Michigan workers to have a college degree or skills certificate by 2030.

Bridge Michigan's overview of free college tuition programs in Michigan can be found here.

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Virginia Gordan has been a part-time reporter at Michigan Radio since fall 2013. She has a general beat covering news topics from across the state.
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