Detroit Regional Chamber > Chamber > Western Michigan University to Fund 1,350 Student Scholarships with Historic Empowering Futures Gift

Western Michigan University to Fund 1,350 Student Scholarships with Historic Empowering Futures Gift

December 10, 2021
Western Michigan University on Dec. 9 announced the first of several initiatives being supported by a historic $550 million donation, the Empowering Futures Gift. This gift is the largest given to a public university in the United States in history. In an effort to break down systemic barriers to success with unprecedented scholarship and support opportunities, WMU will provide tuition-free education and low-cost housing through a new innovative Living Learning Community. Additionally, the university will be able to support internship stipends to foster career development and graduation scholarships for 1,350 incoming and current students in its first year.

This is an exciting step toward the 60 by 30 goal set forth by the Detroit Regional Chamber and adopted by the state to increase postsecondary degree attainment to 60% by 2030.

“In this rapidly changing world, a college education is more important than ever. But the cost of that education has shifted from the public to the student, putting it increasingly out of reach for too many. Western Michigan University is closing that gap by taking a holistic view of student success,” says WMU President Edward Montgomery.

“The University is building an ecosystem of financial aid and programmatic support designed to meet students where they are and support them in their ambitions.”

This ecosystem will support the following:


To increase access to postsecondary education, WMU will launch the Bronco Promise to provide a tuition-free Western education for up to five years for first-year students who come from Michigan families earning an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $50,000 or less who have net assets under $50,000. These scholarships will go to 340 in the 2022-23 academic year and up to 600 students each year after.

The Bronco Promise expands upon federal Pell support to cover the cost of tuition. In students’ first two years, the first $1,200 of the Bronco Promise support will be funded by the gift. The balance for the entirety of the five-year scholarships will be funded by institutional aid dollars.


Beyond tuition, living expenses can pose a significant burden for students to complete a college education. A press release from WMU shared that studies show students who live on campus perform better academically and have higher retention rates than their off-campus peers, but that’s not financially feasible for all students and families. Part of the Empowering Futures Gift will offer up to $6,000 in housing and dining scholarships for 110 incoming students for their first year. The formation of a new Living Learning community will also provide offer holistic support through the entire college experience and encourage ongoing education, extracurricular, and career exploration.


The benefit of on-the-job experience is undeniable for students’ career success, but not everyone can afford school without a steady income that isn’t always available through internship opportunities. Per the University’s press release, the Empowering Futures Gift will provide financial support for internships at private and nonprofit organizations, subsidizing up to $3,600 in wages for up to 100 students each year with competitive, need-based stipends. The gift will also support additional staffing for the program to build connectivity between leading employers and students and to ensure high-quality experiences.


Life happens, and unexpected events and potential financial challenges that come with them can derail students’ paths to a degree. Eight hundred upper-level students each year will be provided with a need-based award up to $1,000 that can be applied to tuition and fees to help ease any disruption to the college journey.

Learn more about the Empowering Futures Scholarships.