Granholm Says New Merit Award Scholarship Most Important Bill Facing Lawmakers

Contact: Heidi Watson 517-335-6397

December 5, 2006

$4,000 for all students hangs in the balance

LANSING - Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today said no single piece of legislation is more important to Michigan's families and children than the new Merit Award scholarship and repeated her call for state lawmakers to approve it so every student will have the opportunity to pursue their education after high school.
 
The measure, which is a critical component of the governor's economic plan she successfully campaigned on in her bid for re--election, is being considered by the House Appropriations Committee.  It has already been approved by the Michigan Senate.

"If we want the jobs of tomorrow in Michigan, we need to make this commitment to this year's high school seniors and beyond," Granholm said.  "The new Merit Award will send a powerful signal to employers across the country and around the globe - Michigan will have the nation's best-educated workforce.  I believe this measure is not only necessary and desirable, it is critical to Michigan's economic future."

The new Merit Award is a $4,000 scholarship that would be available to every student who wants to earn a college degree or technical certification.  Currently, the Michigan Merit Award is based on standardized test scores and is awarded to only half the students who graduate high school.
  
The proposal combines the best features of the current Michigan Merit Award scholarship with an approach that will also provide encouragement and financial support to the majority of our students - those who do not qualify for the current Merit Award based solely on standardized test scores.
  
Among key features of the Governor's new Merit proposal are the following:

-  Beginning with the high school class of 2007 - this year's high school seniors - students can use the $4,000 scholarship to attend any college or university in Michigan, public or private, and a wide array of technical training programs.

-  Students who do well on the high school assessment can earn half their scholarship, $2,000, during their freshmen and sophomore years and earn the remaining $2,000 by successfully completing two years of post-secondary education, earning an associate's degree, junior status at a 4-year institution, or technical certification.

-  Students who do not receive a qualifying score on the assessment test can earn their entire $4,000 scholarship by successfully completing two years of post-secondary education.  They will be able to demonstrate their "merit" by earning the post-secondary credentials that employers demand.

The governor's proposal is a direct response to the central recommendation of the Cherry Commission on Higher Education and Economic Growth - that Michigan must make post-secondary education universal.  Students may choose to attend four-year colleges and universities or community colleges, or participate in technical training programs, but they must continue their education beyond high school.
 
Granholm noted that last spring she signed the historic bipartisan legislation making Michigan's high school graduation requirements among the most rigorous in the nation.
  
"Now that we have taken this step to ensure that all our students are ready for success beyond high school, we must also be prepared to support their aspirations to higher education," Granholm said.  "The new Merit Award legislation does just that.  Every day action is delayed on the new Merit Award is a day that Michigan is not gaining more ground in the battle for jobs and economic growth."
  
The new Merit Award scholarship is part of Granholm's comprehensive economic plan, a $6 billion plan that is now being implemented.  Part of that plan is helping workers get the skills they need to fill job vacancies that already exist.  The plan also ensures that our young people have the skills necessary for jobs that will exist tomorrow - jobs that require a college degree or technical training.
  
"Nothing is more important to Michigan's families and children today than creating good-paying jobs," Granholm said.  "To those who argue we can't afford a scholarship for all our students to pursue their education, I argue that we can and must invest in every student."

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