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University of Michigan unveils "Go Blue Guarantee," free tuition for some students

Credit Wikimedia Commons

Some students at the University of Michigan could qualify for free tuition starting next January. That's because of a new program called the "Go Blue Guarantee."

The University's regents passed the program at a board meeting today.

In-state students whose families make less than $65,000 a year will qualify for the incentive. The University says the move is part of an effort to be more accessible to low-income students.

"Today, our long-standing commitment to ensuring that qualified students from Michigan can afford a UM education becomes a guarantee," said University President Mark Schlissel.

Tuition will increase in the coming year for all students: in-state tuition will rise almost 2.9 percent, and out of state tuition will rise to 4.5 percent.

Students eligible for the "Go Blue Guarantee" may also be eligible for additional financial aid.

U of M education, public policy and economics professor Susan Dynarski says the Go Blue Guarantee grew out of research she did in collaboration with the Michigan Department of Education.

Her study, which will be published late this summer, identified a number of talented, low-income students who didn't apply to U of M because they didn't think they could afford it. Dynarski says even though U of M already covers tuition for half its low-income population, that affordability message was not getting across to the students who most needed to hear it.

Based in large part on her findings, U of M launched the HAIL Scholarship pilot program in 2015 for high-achieving, low-income students. The pilot provides free tuition scholarships for four years to qualifying students. The study had a control group and a treatment group -- the control group received the standard marketing materials and application information for U of M; for the treatment group, U of M "pushed out information" telling them they'd be guaranteed four years of free tuition.

"This produced a substantial increase in the application rate among these students," explains Dynarski, "and ultimately in the number of low-income students actually enrolling at Michigan." She goes on to say that the Go Blue Guarantee follows the research and "puts the affordability information front and center, where it can help students make decisions about where to apply for college."

*Clarification: This story was updated from a previous version to avoid potential confusion about the tuition increase. When tuition goes up, it goes up for everyone, but the UM will increase the financial aid for "Go Blue Guarantee" students so it continues to cover the full cost of tuition.

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