GV expands tuition-free program

Lauren Formosa, Staff Writer

Grand Valley State University is expanding their tuition-free program to make higher education more affordable for prospective low-income students. 

The Grand Valley Pledge program, announced in 2021, was only initially available to first-year students from six Michigan counties where there is a GVSU presence. It will now be open to all incoming freshman and transfer students from across Michigan whose family income is below $50,000. 

Ben Rhodes, Assistant Director of Financial Aid, said the program is meant to show GVSU’s commitment to helping students afford their education. 

“These families have a household income around or below the national average and finances make a much bigger impact on their decision on where to attend college,” Rhodes said. “The Grand Valley Pledge is Grand Valley’s commitment to these families who we know are making a big decision. We’re trying to tell them ‘We’re supporting you by this pledge, we are committed to helping you afford tuition.’”

The expansion will start with freshmen and transfer bachelor’s students admitted for the fall 2022 semester. 

Those with a qualifying Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on file with the university will have any leftover tuition fees covered by the Grand Valley Pledge after applying Pell Grant funds and merit scholarships. 

According to the Grand Valley Pledge website, the financial aid offered through the program will cover 12 to 15 credits of undergraduate level courses.

Prospective students don’t need to fill out extra paperwork to apply for the Grand Valley Pledge. Once a student gets accepted and a FAFSA has been completed, GVSU will automatically award full undergraduate tuition and fees if they are eligible.

The Grand Valley Pledge is renewable for up to three years after being awarded, given that the student is maintaining satisfactory academic progress and is enrolled as a full-time student.

According to research done by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, nearly 32% of high school juniors strongly agreed that even if they were accepted into a college or university, their families could not afford to send them. 

On the GVSU pledge website, President Philomena Mantella said the Grand Valley Pledge “is another way of assuring that we create opportunity and advance equity in the communities in which we live and teach, as well as inspire a broader movement of making higher education accessible to all.”

GVSU announced the expansion of the Grand Valley Pledge on the university’s Facebook page on Jan. 18. 

Since then, current students like junior Madeline Krawciw have taken to social media to discuss how their financial aid has helped them afford tuition and continue to attend the university.

“Grand Valley offered me more financial aid, which ultimately aided my final decision,” Krawciw said. “Not having to be concerned about taking out loans or constantly paying through the semester is a huge relief, and I think it provides a more positive outlook on my education and institution rather than constant negative feelings associated with tuition.”

Others have also echoed Krawciw’s sentiments, including sophomore Nayeli Mora, who was eligible for and was granted tuition-free enrollment.

“I’m a first-generation student and would not have been able to attend college if it wasn’t for the free tuition,” Mora said. “I am so grateful. Being the daughter of an immigrant mother, I would have never found another way to put myself through college.” 

With the expansion of the Grand Valley Pledge, GVSU administration and the Financial Aid Office are hopeful that more incoming students will take advantage of the program, and that the university as a whole will see an increase in enrollment. 

“The campaign behind the Grand Valley Pledge is really to get the word out there that Grand Valley does have support for low income and first-generation families,” Rhodes said. “We’re trying to make sure that Grand Valley can be affordable to families and students who might not believe it’s affordable.”

Krawciw is also pleased to see the university expanding the Grand Valley Pledge to include more future students, saying that this could take off unnecessary stress from high school seniors trying to navigate college admissions and entering the adult world.

“Having an opportunity for students to not worry about financial aid and being able to focus more on enjoying and getting excited for their education, I believe would boost morale for the incoming students and the university can benefit from this,” Krawciw said. “It makes attending university possible for a lot more people and can help redefine what is possible for young adults in poverty.”