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The free public college movement crept into another state Thursday when the University of Michigan rolled out a new program offering four years of free tuition in Ann Arbor for full-time in-state undergraduates with family incomes up to $65,000 per year.
The program, called the Go Blue Guarantee, targets an earnings cutoff close to the state’s median income, which was $63,893 in 2015. It will launch on Jan. 1, 2018, meaning students will begin receiving awards in winter 2018 semester. Currently enrolled students can qualify.
University regents approved the plan Thursday as part of the budget for the Ann Arbor campus in the upcoming year. Officials say the move will not cut need-based aid for students from families making more than $65,000.
The program does include some asset limits for families earning up to $65,000, however. Students will need to be from families with assets under $50,000 to qualify. Assets including bank accounts, investments, real estate and businesses will be counted. Retirement accounts will not. Home equity will be counted but will be capped at 2.5 percent of income for the winter of 2018 and 1.5 percent afterward.
The award will automatically be made to in-state students who are admitted, enroll in both the fall and winter terms, apply for financial aid, and meet the income and asset requirements. The award is structured as a last-dollar program, meaning it will be paid after other forms of financial aid like federal Pell Grants, Michigan Competitive Scholarships and Michigan Education Trust funding.
Regents approved a $2.05 billion general fund budget for Ann Arbor. It expects a 1.9 percent increase in state appropriations, a 5.5 percent increase in indirect cost recovery on research funding and a 6.8 percent increase in tuition and fee revenue.
Financial aid will go up by 9.5 percent, or $15.3 million, under the general fund budget regents approved. The total need-based undergraduate financial aid budget will rise to $176.7 million.
In-state undergraduate tuition is set to go up by 2.9 percent to $14,826 for the most common lower-division rate. Out-of-state undergraduates’ comparable tuition will increase by 4.5 percent, to $47,476. Most graduate programs will see tuition rise by 4.1 percent.