The class of 2018 — and every class that comes thereafter — has something to celebrate. 

The Mason County Promise — meaning college scholarships for all public school graduates who earn a 2.0 or higher — is a reality, thanks to approval Tuesday by the Michigan Department of Treasury. 

Not only is the zone good for students, who will receive money for college, it’s good for economic growth, said Ludington Area Schools Superintendent Jason Kennedy.

“Economic growth is all about talent development, and being able to move from entry level positions to management, to allow workers to go from earning minimum wage to a living wage to having a disposable income,” he said. “The Promise can play a substantial role in talent development and economic development. This is way more than giving scholarships to kids.”

The community has a link between its students — future workers — and business and industry, Kennedy said. 

Now, fundraising will begin to provide $250,000 in matching funds. 

The Promise allows the community to capture a portion of current taxes to provide funding for college for every graduate of a Mason County public high school.

The Promise will provide funding for up to two years of tuition and fees or certification through West Shore Community College. At some point in the future, the college options could be expanded.

For now, the first order of business is to raise the local match. A fund is being established through the Community Foundation for Mason County.

Establishing the fund now is critical, he said, in order to capture of millions of dollars in new tax revenue from improvements at the Ludington Pumped Storage Plant that otherwise will go to the state. 

The Promise is for students who reside in Mason County and graduate with a 2.0 or better from Ludington Area Schools, Mason County Central, Mason County Eastern or Gateway to Success Academy.

Receiving approval Tuesday means the Department of Treasury and Attorney General’s office agree the Mason County application meets the requirements of the statute, Kennedy said. 

To receive the college funds, students must live in Mason County.

The promise starts with WSCC, in part because it’s affordable and in part to help the local economy. The community needs employees in the skilled trades, and WSCC can train students in those skills.

“The hope is once it’s up and off the ground, then we will work with the board to expand the schools this scholarship will be used for,” Kennedy said. 

For now, it provides funds for a two-year college degree or certification.

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See the full story in your Wednesday print and eEditions of the Ludington Daily News.

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