Mason County Promise Zone established to help offset college costs.

March 2, 2018

Mason County Promise Zone established to help offset college costs.

LUDINGTON —  Mason County high school students may soon get major financial support for college tuition, following the establishment of a Promise Zone in the county. The Mason County Board of Commissioners recently approved Mason County as one of 15 entities identified as eligible to establish a Promise Zone under the Michigan Promise Zone Authority Act, Act 549 of 2008, as amended.

The Mason County Promise Zone will provide access to affordable education and job preparation opportunities to many who otherwise would not be able to participate because of life circumstances,” said Scott Ward, president of West Shore Community College. “As well as providing a means to access for many, the Promise Zone will lower the cost of education for others, help create a college-going culture in the county, while providing supplemental support to the public school systems.  I am excited to watch the positive impact the Promise Zone will have on Mason County.”

“This scholarship will remove one of the largest barriers for all students to pursue post-secondary education, the money to go to college,” said Paul Shoup, superintendent of Mason County Eastern Schools. “The Promise Scholarship will change the lives of many students and Mason County will benefit from these students being able to enter the workforce with post secondary skills and education.

The Mason County Board of Commissioners must now approve a resolution to establish a Promise Zone Authority, which is an 11 member board that will be charged with establishing a Promise Zone Development Plan. This development plan will outline the specific parameters of the financial promise.

In order to begin issuing scholarships to students, private donations must be raised to cover scholarships during the first two years that the Promise scholarship is awarded. Once scholarships are issued, a base year is established. The base year is the amount of revenue received from the collection of the State Education Tax (SET) in the promise zone in the year immediately preceding the year in which the authority makes its initial payment of qualified educational expenses in accordance with the promise of financial assistance. If the authority continues to make annual payments in accordance with the promise of financial assistance, the state will capture half of the increase in revenue from the collection of the SET. Proceeds from the capture of the SET are deposited in the state treasury and credited to a restricted fund for Mason County to be used solely for the purposes of the Mason County Promise Scholarship.

The Michigan Department of Treasury has estimated if a 2017 base year is established (meaning scholarships are issued to the Class of 2018), the estimated SET capture for year three of the scholarship will be approximately $517,172. If a base year of 2018 is established (first scholarships are issued to the Class of 2019), the estimated SET capture for year three of the scholarship will be approximately $430,008, and if a base year is not established until 2019 (first scholarships to the Class of 2020), the estimated SET capture for year three of the scholarship will be approximately $337,712.

“Establishing a base year of 2017 is critical to maximizing the SET capture to support the Mason County Promise.,” said Jason Kennedy, superintendent of Ludington Area School District.  “Establishing a base year of 2017 will generate a SET capture of approximately $4.9 million dollars between the years of 2022 – 2026, while establishing a base year of 2018, will generate a SET capture of approximately $3.9 million dollars over that same period of time.” This represents approximately $1 million dollars more in SET capture during this period of time using the actuarial estimates from the Michigan Department of Treasury, if the Mason County Promise is able to establish a 2017 base year.

The Mason County Promise Fund has been established through the Community Foundation for Mason County to begin collecting private donations, and donors are urged to begin making donations now. Approximately $300,000 is needed to fund the scholarships to West Shore Community College in year one of the Promise, while an additional $600,000 will be needed in year two. The fundraising campaign was kicked off this week with initial fund opening deposits being made to the Foundation by the community college president and area superintendents.

“A sense of urgency exists to raise as much money as we can to support the Mason County Promise. Every donation, no matter the amount of that donation, will go along way in offering scholarships to graduates of Mason County schools,” Kennedy said.

“Donating to the Mason County Promise was an easy decision. We’ll look back on this 10 years down the road and see the profound impact it has made on our community.  It will be a legacy we will be proud of,” said Jamie Bandstra, superintendent of Gateway to Success Academy.

People interested in supporting the Mason County Promise Fund may do so in one of the following ways:

  1. Credit Card / Debit Card Payment: Visit the Community for Mason County website at: https://mason-foundation.org/give/give-now/. Once on this page, scroll down the page, click on the Specific Fund(s) drop down menu, and select “Mason County Promise Fund.” Enter the requested information, including your donation amount and your credit or debit card information, and select “Submit.”
  2. Payment by Check or Money Order: Checks should be made out to the Community Foundation for Mason County. Please write Mason County Promise Fund on the memo line.  Checks should be mailed to:

Community Foundation for Mason County

P.O. Box 10

Ludington, MI  49431

Questions directly relating to or pertaining to the the Mason County Promise may be directed by email to: [email protected].

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