20 Free College Programs in Michigan That You Need to Know About

(Getty Images)

By Lisa Green

May 24, 2023

Whether you’re a recent high school graduate, a transfer student, or a nontraditional student, There’s a tuition-free program you might qualify for in Michigan.

MICHIGAN—College degrees aren’t getting any cheaper. Fortunately, Michigan’s colleges are adjusting to the financial burden by offering tuition-free programs.

According to CollegeEvaluator, Michigan residents average about $8,855 per year in in-district tuition at Michigan’s colleges, with an additional cost of living averaging $12,926 annually. Most college students need to find ways to reduce the steep prices of their education, such as finding scholarships or seeking state or federal financial aid.

But tuition waiver programs and scholarships offer a reprieve from these steep costs for the most vulnerable families. In October 2022, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the Michigan Achievement Scholarship Bill to make college more affordable to Michiganders. The bill is the most recent step in Whitmer’s goal to have 60% of working-age adults with a post-high school degree or certificate by 2030.

The bipartisan Michigan Achievement Scholarship Bill has resulted in many of Michigan’s colleges creating or revamping tuition-free programs for the fall 2023 semester. We’ve rounded up the best tuition-free programs across the state, including all the new ones you should know about.

Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist discusses the Michigan Reconnect Program during a visit to Mott Community College on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022. (Photo: Michigan.gov)

Residency-Based and District-Based Programs

Michigan Reconnect Program

Schools: Community Colleges

Nontraditional students yet to complete a college degree are in luck with the Michigan Reconnect Program. Governor Gretchen Whitmer launched the program In February 2021, on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than four million Michigan residents were eligible for this bipartisan initiative at its launch. 

The Michigan Reconnect Program connects working-age students to their in-district community college for an Associate’s degree or skills certificate of their choice at no cost to them.

Eligible students must be Michigan residents for at least a year, 25 years or older, and possess a high school diploma or equivalent. Students also must not have already completed a two-year degree.
Visit the Michigan Reconnect website for more information.

Tuition Incentive Program (TIP)

Schools: More than 70 eligible colleges

Prospective college students that received Medicaid coverage before high school graduation are further encouraged to graduate college with help from the Tuition Incentive Program (TIP). Depending on the college and degree chosen, this may mean tuition-free college.

Eligible students must be Michigan residents with a high school diploma or equivalent completed before age 20. The student must have had Medicaid coverage for at least 24 months within a 36-month period between the ages of nine and high school graduation. Students in TIP need to be enrolled at least half-time.
Visit the Tuition Incentive Program website for more information.

Michigan Promise Zones

Depending on your residency and/or high school attended, you or a family member may be eligible for free post-secondary education tuition, sometimes even to a four-year university, through a Promise Zone.

Promise Zones gained national attention with the first Promise Zone program, the Kalamazoo Promise. The Kalamazoo Promise started in November 2005, when anonymous donors funded scholarships for graduates of Kalamazoo Public Schools to an in-district Michigan college.

Other Promise Zones in Michigan were soon added. Another prolific Promise Zone is the Detroit Promise, which offers residents and high school graduates from Detroit school districts free tuition to more than 20 partner colleges. The Flint Promise initially offered free tuition to Flint graduates to Mott Community College but has since expanded to include the University of Michigan-Flint and Kettering University. The Grand Rapids Promise covers tuition, fees, and textbooks at Grand Rapids Community College.

Visit the official website for Michigan Promise Zone Designations or the Michigan Promise Zones Association for more information and to see Promise Zones near you. Additional eligibility rules may apply.

Michigan State University’s Spartan Statue. (Photo: Unsplash)

Public University and Community College Programs

Go Blue Guarantee

Schools: University of Michigan, University of Michigan-Dearborn, University of Michigan-Flint

Location: Ann Arbor, Dearborn, Flint

It’s easier than ever to become a Wolverine. The Go Blue Guarantee was one of Michigan’s first free college programs, implemented after successful results from the High Achieving Involved Leader (HAIL) scholarship. The Go Blue Guarantee was first introduced at the University of Michigan’s primary Ann Arbor campus in 2018. In 2021, the program expanded to the Flint and Dearborn campuses.

Eligible students must have family incomes of $65,000 or less and assets less than $50,000. Students must be Michigan residents and full-time students pursuing their first Bachelor’s degree program.

For more information, visit the Go Blue Guarantee website or the University of Michigan’s financial aid webpage.

Spartan Advantage Program

School: Michigan State University

Location: East Lansing

The Spartan Advantage Program is Michigan State University’s answer to free college, offered to families beneath the poverty line. It is intended as a supplemental program for Pell Grants and other qualifying financial aid. The program covers most costs, including tuition and fees, textbooks, housing, and meals.

Eligible students must be Michigan residents with a household income below $26,000. Students must also be dependents entering their first college semester and already qualified for the maximum Pell Grant. A minimum of 12 credits must be maintained throughout the program.

Visit the Michigan State University financial aid website for more information.

Wayne State Guarantee

School: Wayne State University

Location: Detroit

Wayne State University started its free college program with the Heart of Detroit Tuition Pledge, explicitly aimed at Detroit high school students.  But with the new Wayne State Guarantee program, the Michigan Achievement Scholarship program extends the program across Michigan for the fall 2023 semester.

Eligible students must be Michigan residents with a family income of $70,000 or less and assets of $50,000 or less. Students must also be incoming first-year undergraduates entering college for the first time and maintain a full-time student status.

Visit the Wayne State University financial aid website for more information.

Grand Valley Pledge

School: Grand Valley State University

Location: Allendale

The Grand Valley Pledge was first launched in the fall semester of 2021, offering tuition-free admission to students from Ottawa, Kent, Muskegon, Wayne, Grand Traverse, and Calhoun counties. As of 2022, it expanded to all Michigan residents. People who qualify for aid in excess of tuition costs may use the funds for other items, such as textbooks, housing, food, parking permit, or other educational expenses.

Eligible students must be Michigan residents with a family income of $50,000 or less and assets of $50,000 or less. Students must be full-time students pursuing their first Bachelor’s degree, but may be either incoming freshmen or transfer students.

Visit the Grand Valley Pledge webpage for more information.

Bronco Promise

School: Western Michigan University

Location: Kalamazoo

In 2021, a group of anonymous Western Michigan University alumni gifted their alma mater a record-breaking $550 million toward the university’s endowment fund. The Empowering Futures Gift was the largest single gift to a United States public university. It ensured the creation of a need-based financial aid program known as the Bronco Promise.

Eligible students must be Michigan residents with a family income of $50,000 or less and assets of $50,000 or less. Students must be incoming full-time students enrolling as freshmen.

Visit the Western Michigan University financial aid webpage for more information.

Golden Grizzlies Tuition Guarantee

School: Oakland University

Location: Rochester Hills

Oakland University’s Student Financial Services office self-reports that it was the first public university in Michigan to have a tuition pledge, known as the Golden Grizzlies Tuition Guarantee.

Eligible students must be Michigan residents with an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of less than $8,000. Students must be incoming freshmen.

Visit the Golden Grizzlies Tuition Guarantee webpage for more information.

Macomb Tuition Advantage

School: Macomb Community College

Location: Warren

One of the Detroit Metro’s largest community colleges has unveiled a new tuition-free program for fall 2023. Macomb Community College’s new Macomb Tuition Advantage is accessible for around half of its current 15,000 student population.

Eligible students must be Michigan residents with a family income of $70,000 or less and assets of $50,000 or less. Students must be pursuing an Associate’s degree as a full-time student with a 2.0 grade-point average, but can be either incoming freshmen or already attending the institution. Students do not have to live in Macomb County.

Visit the Macomb Tuition Advantage webpage for more information.

Eastern Tuition Advantage

School: Eastern Michigan University

Location: Ypsilanti

For over a decade, Eastern Michigan University has offered a tuition-free program for high-performing lower-income students, the Education First Opportunity Scholarship (EFOS). As of fall 2023, this program will expand to become the Eastern Tuition Advantage (ETA). Previously, the EFOS was only available to students with Pell Grant eligibility. The ETA takes other financial situations into account.

Eligible students must have a family income of $60,000 or less and a 3.0 high school grade point average. Students must also be incoming first-year undergraduates entering college for the first time and maintain both a full-time student status and a 2.75 grade-point average at the institution.

Visit the Eastern Tuition Advantage webpage for more information.

Ferris Launch

School: Ferris State University

Location: Big Rapids

Ferris State University initiated its tuition-free program in 2021, when the University of Michigan and Grand Valley State University were starting similar programs.FSU’s program is called Ferris Launch.

Eligible students must have an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of zero. Students must also be incoming first-year undergraduates entering college for the first time with at least a 3.0 high school grade-point average. Students must maintain full-time status and eligibility for Pell Grants.

Visit the Ferris Launch webpage for more information.

Cardinal Commitment

School: Saginaw Valley State University

Location: University Center

Although Saginaw Valley State University is known to be among Michigan’s more affordable universities, the cost of tuition can still be too steep for many families. That’s why in 2021, Saginaw Valley State University introduced the Cardinal Commitment for incoming first-year students demonstrating financial need.

Eligible students must be Michigan residents with a family income of $70,000 or less and assets of $50,000 or less. Students must also be incoming first-year undergraduates entering college for the first time and maintain a full-time student status.

Visit the Cardinal Commitment webpage for more information.

NMU Tuition Advantage

School: Northern Michigan University

Location: Marquette

High school students willing to live in the Upper Peninsula will find a great program with NMU Tuition Advantage. This program, which starts in the fall of 2023, offers a tuition-free experience.

Eligible students must be Michigan residents and incoming first-year undergraduates entering college for the first time. The student must qualify for Federal Pell Grants and the Michigan Achievement Scholarship and maintain full-time student status.

Visit the NMU Tuition Advantage webpage for more information.

(Photo: Unsplash)

Private University Programs

BeFree Tuition Guarantee

School: Baker College

Locations: Cadillac, Jackson, Muskegon, Owosso, and Royal Oak

Baker College started in Flint, but it’s had some monumental changes in the past few years. In addition to moving operations to Owosso and reconsolidating its campus locations, Baker College will begin offering a tuition-free program, the BeFree Tuition Guarantee, in fall 2023. And unlike most tuition-free programs, the BeFree Tuition Guarantee is also available to online students.

The program is available to graduating high school seniors, recent high school graduates, and transfer students with either 60 college credits or an Associate’s degree. Eligible students must be Michigan residents and new Baker College students qualifying for the maximum Federal Pell Grant. Students should be enrolled full-time. Students must have either a high school grade-point average of 3.0 or higher or a college cumulative average of 3.5 or higher.

Visit the BeFree Tuition Guarantee website for more information.

Cornerstone Commitment Grant

School: Cornerstone University

Location: Grand Rapids

Thanks to the Michigan Achievement Scholarship, Cornerstone University will begin offering a tuition-free program starting in fall 2023.

Eligible students must be Michigan residents and first-year undergraduates entering college for the first time. The student must qualify for both Federal Pell Grants and the Michigan Achievement Scholarship and maintain full-time student status.

Visit the Cornerstone University financial aid website for more information.

Albion College Promise

School: Albion College

Location: Albion

The COVID-19 pandemic made many Michigan families reassess their finances, of which college tuition was just one concern of many. Fortunately, Albion College is a private school that stepped up to help with tuition costs in the wake of the pandemic. The Albion College Promise was first offered to graduating high school students in the class of 2021 and has since expanded.

Eligible students must be Michigan residents with a family income of $65,000 or less. Students must be full-time students and eligible for the Federal Pell Grant, but may be either incoming freshmen or transfer students.

Visit the Albion College Promise webpage for more information.

Detroit Future Program

School: Alma College

Location: Alma

The town of Alma is more than 100 miles away from Detroit, but its private college cares about Detroit’s residents in a big way. The Detroit Future Program launched in 2014 as a scholarship, but as of fall 2020, it has expanded to full tuition coverage. 

Eligible students must be either Detroit residents or attending a Detroit high school with a family income of $65,000 or less. Students must have a 3.0 high school grade-point average or higher to qualify.

Visit the Alma College financial aid website for more information.

Olivet College ADVANTAGE Scholarship

School: Olivet College

Location: Olivet

Olivet College is more accessible to low-income students thanks to the Michigan Achievement Scholarship. Starting in fall 2023, the Olivet College ADVANTAGE Scholarship promises to allow about half of Olivet College’s incoming student population to attend tuition-free.

Eligible students must be Michigan residents and incoming first-year undergraduates entering college for the first time to pursue a Bachelor’s degree. The student must qualify for both Federal Pell Grants and the Michigan Achievement Scholarship and maintain full-time student status.

Visit the Olivet College ADVANTAGE Scholarship webpage for more information.

Cougar Country Promise (CCP)

School: Cleary University

Location: Howell

Anyone from Michigan’s high school graduating class of 2023 moving on to Cleary University will be happy to find reduced or even free tuition costs offered in their financial aid package as of fall 2023. The Cougar Country Promise keeps Cleary University’s tuition affordable for many Michigan families who may struggle to afford college.

Eligible students must be Michigan residents with an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of less than $25000, though only those with an EFC of zero qualify for free tuition. Students must be incoming freshmen eligible for the Michigan Achievement Scholarship.

Visit the Cleary University scholarships website for more information.

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