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Free college tuition in Michigan: Which schools offer what

Grand Valley State University
Michigan residents may qualify for free tuition at some Michigan colleges and universities but not others, as campuses market tuition-free programs targeting different groups. (Susan Montgomery / Shutterstock)

Nov. 1: Free tuition lured Michigan adults to college. Next job: Keeping them there
July 19: Deadline looms for thousands of Michigan residents offered free tuition

Depending on where you live, how much you earn, how old you are and even what job you hold, college tuition may be free for you in Michigan.

But figuring out where you can pay nothing for college tuition and where you’d still have to write hefty checks is not always simple.

    If you live or go to high school in Detroit, there’s a free tuition program for you at one Michigan public university.

    If you come from a household in the bottom half of income in the state, you qualify for free tuition at another.

    A third public university offers free tuition to some residents of six counties, and a fourth guarantees free tuition for low-income students with good grades.


    And if you were a frontline worker in the first months of the pandemic or are over the age of 25, you have a golden ticket to the state’s community colleges and, afterward, discounted tuition at some (but not all) public four-year colleges.

    Unfortunately, there is no centralized clearinghouse for now for students and families to determine what schools offer them their best financial options. So Bridge Michigan has compiled a list of public and private colleges that we’ve found offer some type of free tuition program, with information on who is eligible, and links for more detail. We’ll add to this list as new programs are announced.

    One important caveat for families to keep in mind: Free tuition often doesn’t mean completely free college. The free-tuition offers don’t cover the cost of room and board, for example. Other financial aid from the colleges may be available to help defray those costs.

    Prospective students should contact the financial aid offices of colleges and universities for more information.

    Albion College


    Tuition is covered for Michigan students from families earning less than $65,000 a year.

    You can find more details here.

    Alma College


    Free tuition for students who live or attend high school in Detroit and who have annual family incomes under $65,000.

    You can read more here.

    Central Michigan University

    Mount Pleasant

    Beginning in the fall of 2021, CMU will guarantee financial aid that covers tuition for students from families with household incomes under $50,000. The program is new and there isn’t a link available to the details yet.

    Eastern Michigan University


    Full-paid tuition for first-year students who have at least a 3.0 grade point average in high school and are eligible for a federal Pell grant, which typically tops out at a family income of $50,000 or less. Students who qualify for the scholarship as a freshman can keep it for four years, if they continue to qualify for Pell Grants.

    You can read more details here.

    Ferris State University

    Big Rapids

    Full-paid tuition for first-time college students with a 3.0 or higher grade point average in high school, and a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) determination that your family cannot contribute any money toward college costs. The FAFSA is a form that students fill out to see if they qualify for federal grants or loans to help pay for college. A determination of zero family contribution indicates a low household income.  One example: a student from a family with a household income less than $24,000 and which received government assistance of some kind in the filing year would have an expected family contribution of zero.

    More details can be found here.

    Grand Valley State University


    Full-paid tuition for full-time students from six counties (Kent, Ottawa, Calhoun, Muskegon, Wayne and Grand Traverse) who are from families with household incomes under $50,000 and have less than $50,000 in assets outside of things like the home they live in and retirement accounts.

    More details can be found here.

    Realted: Grand Valley State offering free tuition to some lower-income students

    Michigan State University

    East Lansing

    Michigan students from families qualifying for the maximum federal Pell grant – a rule of thumb is a household income under $26,000 – are eligible for a program offering free tuition and other financial aid. Students can get free tuition for up to eight semesters.

    You can read more here.

    Oakland University


    Free tuition for students with expected family contributions on the FAFSA of under $8,000. University officials say the average household income of those who qualify for the Oakland program is $41,000, though families earning as much as $140,000 are considered. Students can receive free tuition for four years.

    You can read more details here.

    Saginaw Valley State University

    Saginaw County

    Families with incomes under $50,000 can attend Saginaw Valley tuition-free beginning in the fall of 2021. The program is expected to be officially unveiled next week. 

    University of Michigan

    Ann Arbor, Dearborn, Flint

    Full-paid tuition for Michigan-resident students from families with household incomes under $65,000 a year and less than $50,000 in assets outside of things like the home you live in and retirement accounts.

    More details can be found here.

    Related: U-M expands free tuition program to its Dearborn, Flint campuses

    Wayne State University


    Full-paid tuition for Detroit residents and those who graduate from Detroit high schools, with no limit on family income.

    More details can be found here.

    Futures for Frontliners

    A state program that guarantees free tuition at the state’s community colleges and some job training services for essential workers who worked during the first months of the coronavirus pandemic. About 120,000 signed up for the program. The application period has ended, but frontline workers who are 25 or older can get the same benefit through Michigan Reconnect.

    You can read more details here.

    Michigan Reconnect

    A state program that pays tuition and mandatory fees at community colleges and some job training services for Michigan residents ages 25 and older who haven’t earned a college degree in the past. More than 46,000 people have signed up in the first three weeks of the program. Current students qualify, along with those who’ve never stepped foot on a college campus.

    More than 4 million Michigan residents qualify for the program, according to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

    One caveat: to qualify for free tuition, you must live in a community college district, which is a geographic area in which property owners pay taxes to support a community college. About half of the geographic area of the state and one in five Michiganders don’t live in community college districts.Those living outside a community college district who otherwise qualify for the program can take classes at a discounted rate.

    You can read more details here.

    Detroit Promise

    Students who live in Detroit and graduate from a Detroit high school (traditional public, charter, private or parochial), who have a 3.0 GPA, and an  ACT score of at least 21 or SAT score of 1060, qualify for up to four years of free tuition at 20 public and private colleges, as well as six community colleges.

    You can see the list of participating schools and find out more here.

    Flint Promise

    Provides free tuition to students from Flint attending Mott Community College, Kettering University and the University of Michigan-Flint.

    You can read more about it here.

    Grand Rapids Promise

    Offers free tuition to Grand Rapids Community College to graduates of all public and private high schools located in Grand Rapids, starting with the 2020 graduating class. The program covers 100 percent of costs for students who attended Grand Rapids high schools beginning before 10th grade.

    You can see more information here.

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