Letters: Other Views on Educational Achievement

March 11, 2019

The Detroit News

Greg Handel, Dr. Wanda Cook-Robinson


Detroit Chamber helps students succeed

In a recent column (“Before free college, fix the schools,” Feb. 14) Ingrid Jacques examined the governor’s proposal for the creation of a statewide, tuition-free community college program citing examples from the Detroit Promise. As the administrator of the program, the Detroit Regional Chamber understands that providing access to tuition-free college is only one part of a broader strategy to ensure that individuals have a pathway to a successful career and employers have access to the talent they need.

Jacques rightly raises the issue that there is relatively low completion among community college students. This is a national issue, not just a Michigan issue. Completion rates are a significant challenge for many reasons, including academic challenges and job opportunities in a low unemployment environment.

In 2016, the Detroit Promise adopted a more comprehensive approach and implemented a best practice model that increases student retention from their first year to their second year. This model, known as “intensive coaching” helps students overcome barriers to education from the minute they get on campus.

This program places coaches on community college campuses to provide ongoing support, encouragement, and connections to more intensive resources. This is particularly beneficial to students who are the first in their family to go to college.

To increase the number of students enrolling in college and participating in the Detroit Promise, the chamber also added access to a four-year university track. With both additions, the total current enrollment has grown to more than 1,400 students. While there is still room for growth, those students would be less likely to continue their education.

In our region in particular, there is tremendous need – and opportunity – in the skilled trades. Acknowledging this, Mayor Mike Duggan, the chamber’s partner in the Detroit Promise and its chief champion, announced at his State of the City address a new partnership for the Detroit Promise with select community colleges to cover shorter-term skilled certification tracks. Depending on the track chosen, students could join the workforce following as little as six to 12 months of coursework.

Through a partnership with the mayor’s Grow Detroit’s Young Talent (GDYT), scholarship students are provided opportunities to work in summer career pathway internships to build career readiness skills in various fields, from accounting to junior police or fire cadets.

While we need to be aware of the challenges with scaling up tuition-free community college, those concerns must be balanced with the need to drastically increase Michigan’s level of postsecondary attainment.

The chamber is proud of the holistic methods we are taking to increase pathways to college and careers, and we know that others around the country, such as Tennessee, are finding success as well.

Greg Handel, vice president of education and talent initiatives

Detroit Regional Chamber

School goes better with breakfast

Teachers, tutors, resource centers and even homework are all geared to helping students learn. One thing that often goes missing, however, is more basic than any piece of curriculum – breakfast.

Studies have repeatedly shown that a student who goes to school hungry is at an immediate disadvantage because it is difficult for him or her to concentrate and learn when their basic needs are not being met.

Oakland County is Better with Breakfast is a groundbreaking public/non-profit collaboration between the Oakland County Board of Commissioners, Oakland Schools and the United Way for Southeastern Michigan with the goal of expanding free breakfast to students in eligible schools across Oakland County. Our model for addressing the underutilization of federal school breakfast funding is unique to both the state and the country.

The Better with Breakfast program was developed to improve academic outcomes by starting with something as simple, yet fundamental, as breakfast. Did you know only 43 percent of Oakland County students who receive a free or reduced lunch are also accessing breakfast? That means as many as 7,300 students in Oakland County alone struggle with hunger.

Oakland Schools is proud to partner with Oakland County leadership and United Way for Southeastern Michigan, to promote and support this important initiative.

School breakfast fights hunger, improves nutrition, and empowers children to learn.

By providing students with easier access to breakfast, we are eliminating a huge barrier to student achievement.

Dr. Wanda Cook-Robinson, superintendent

Oakland Schools

View original article here

OU takes the next step in furthering higher education availability

The Oakland Post 

Laurel Kraus

November 28, 2017

As of 2015, around 60 percent of Americans had not obtained an associate’s degree or higher, according to Forbes. Oakland University has entered a full partnership with the Detroit Promise Program beginning fall of 2018 to provide Detroit students with the opportunity to combat that statistic.

“We’re trying to create a culture and an understanding in Detroit that if you graduate high school, there is a pathway for you to go on to higher education,” said Greg Handel, vice president of education on the Detroit Regional Chamber.

The Detroit Promise Program, established in 2013, is a scholarship program in which Detroit students are offered the ability to attend either two or four years of college tuition-free.

“Most of our students come from Oakland and Macomb County,” said Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at Oakland, James Lentini. “We’d like to actually expand our opportunities for Wayne County students, and Detroit students in particular with the Detroit Promise, to be able to attend Oakland.”

For the previous two years, Oakland has participated through accepting up to five students in the program each year, but with the full partnership it will now be accepting an unlimited number.

“We are trying to increase our presence in the Detroit area,” Director of Financial Aid Cindy Hermsen said. “I think this is another step toward Oakland University expressing our interest in providing access to students throughout the entire state.”

Students who have lived in the city all four years of high school and have graduated from a Detroit school, achieved a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 and earned a minimum score of either 21 on the ACT or 1060 on the SAT, are automatically eligible for the scholarship but must register with the Detroit Chamber of Commerce.

Since Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced the idea for such a program in 2011, the Detroit Regional Chamber has been responsible for managing it, with funding from the Michigan Education Excellence Foundation.

The Detroit Promise Program is considered a last dollar scholarship, which means that Oakland will first accept and apply all other scholarships and/or grants that a student is eligible for before utilizing the program’s scholarship to pay any remaining tuition balance.

“We build on existing sources of support so that we’re really leveraging our resources in a way that allow us to be sustainable,” Handel said.

While the Detroit Promise Program fully covers tuition costs, it does not aid in books or housing.

“We understand that there are still barriers to students being able to continue, but we’ve removed a major one,” Handel said.

Under the program, five classes have graduated from high school and moved into the community college program and two classes have moved into the four-year university program, according to Handel.

As similar scholarship offered at OU is The Wade H. McCree Scholarship Program, which holds the same academic requirements as the Detroit Promise Program, but awards full tuition to students in Detroit, Pontiac and Royal Oak who are nominated by their school districts.


View the original article here.

Grand Valley State University Partners on Detroit Promise 4-Year Program, Madonna University Also Signs On

By Daniel Lai

Grand Valley State University (GVSU) is the latest higher education institution to partner with the Detroit Promise program. Officials announced the university’s commitment during a signing ceremony last Friday, making Grand Valley the 13th public university to offer a tuition-free path to a bachelor’s degree for qualifying Detroit students.

“Grand Valley is delighted to become a full partner in a program that puts a college degree within the reach of many more students from Detroit,” GVSU president Thomas Haas said. “Grand Valley has the best graduation rate among Michigan’s regional universities, and we know that college-bound students from Detroit will find their passion and obtain a degree at our university. We’re excited about the partnership with students, the Chamber and the city.”

The Detroit Promise picks up on the work that began with the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Detroit Scholarship Fund initiative, Gov. Rick Snyder and the Michigan Education Excellence Foundation (MEEF), by providing a dedicated funding source to guarantee students in Detroit will be able to attend college tuition-free, no matter their economic status. It is funded through a combination of private fundraising through the MEEF and the Detroit Promise Zone, a program created by the state Legislature that allows for the capture of a portion of property tax revenue generated in the city.

“This partnership is an unprecedented opportunity for the city of Detroit,” said Chamber president and CEO Sandy Baruah. “We are honored to have Grand Valley on board, participating in this true partnership among the state, the city and our university and philanthropic communities.”

Citing the long-term economic impact of retaining local talent, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan called the Detroit Promise, “one of the most important” initiatives for the city.

There are more than 260 students currently enrolled at a four-year university.

In addition to GVSU, Madonna University also signed a partner commitment with the Detroit Promise.

“We are excited to see Madonna University join the list of participating Detroit Promise partners, offering our students another high-quality university option close to home,” said Greg Handel, vice president of education and talent for the Chamber.

For more information on the Detroit Promise, visit testportal.detroitchamber.com/econdev or contact Greg Handel at ghandel@detroitchamber.com.

Daniel Lai is a communications specialist and copywriter at the Detroit Regional Chamber. 

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Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah on NBC’s Education Nation

NBC Education Nation kicked off its national tour in Detroit on March 22. Chamber CEO and President Sandy Baruah appeared on a panel called “Job One,” a conversation about Michigan’s workforce, the skills gap, and the future of our economy. Baurah joined Mary Barra, SVP for Global Product Development at GM; Tim Bryan, CEO of GalaxE Solutions; and James Jacobs, President of Macomb Community College, Moderator Chelsea Clinton lead the discussion on Michigan’s transition from a factory-based to a knowledge-based economy and the effects of this transition on workers, employers, and the competitiveness of the region.

This session touched on the relative roles of education institutions, employers, and the business community in preparing workers to compete in the new economy, and will explore innovative partnerships designed to align industry and education to close the skills gap. Immediately following the session, NBC News Chief Education Correspondent Rehema Ellis interviewed Governor Snyder about education in Michigan.

For additional video coverage, visit the Education Nation Detroit Summit website.

Sandy Baruah on NBC’s Education Nation from Detroit Regional Chamber on Vimeo.

WDIV EducationNation Overview from Detroit Regional Chamber on Vimeo.