Senate approves Bumstead Promise Zones legislation benefiting Muskegon, Newaygo County students

LANSING, Mich. — The state Senate on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by state Sen. Jon Bumstead that would provide flexibility and access to student scholarships for Michigan’s Promise Zones.

“These reforms would allow Promise Zone Authorities to make decisions that will benefit the individual needs of students within that zone,” said Bumstead, R-Newaygo. “I think we’ve found that, while being a simpler route, blanket policies simply don’t meet the unique needs of students in different areas of the state.”

The Michigan Promise Zone Authority Act provides for scholarships to students who live and graduate from a high school located within the boundaries of a Promise Zone. The scholarships allow for students to pursue higher education while lessening their financial burden.

Promise Zones have three funding sources: the federal Pell Grant or other need-based aid, private contributions and revenues from the state tax capture mechanism. Michigan statute currently allows for 15 communities to have Promise Zones.

Currently, the Michigan Promise Zone Authority Act covers the cost of “qualified educational expenses” for students. Under the current definition, qualified educational expenses cover costs on top of tuition for expenses of books, supplies and equipment required for courses.

Senate Bill 1052 would modify what is considered a “qualified educational expense” and would make the cost of books, supplies and other equipment optional expenses that a Promise Zone Authority can cover if they choose to.

“Current law includes mandates from Lansing that take away dollars that could be going toward giving more Muskegon and Newaygo County students tuition scholarships,” Bumstead said. “Giving each Promise Zone Authority the choice to include additional costs covered on top of tuition allows each zone to be more autonomous and effective in meeting the needs of students in their community.”

The legislation now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

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