Foundation Coalition Reinvents Scholarships

Posted on October 5, 2015

With many Michigan communities struggling to retain local college graduates as a part of their economic growth and talent retention strategies, a group of community foundations and economic development agencies in the Thumb Region are finalizing details for an early 2016 launch of their new “Reverse Scholarship” program.

Traditional scholarships are awarded and paid on the “front end” of a student’s career. At that time there are no guarantees the student will complete studies in their chosen field, graduate from college or return to their communities to help contribute to growth and prosperity.

A reverse scholarship is essentially a talent retention program. It would pay students on the back-end of their college career, after they have completed a degree in a STEAM related field, but only if they agree to move back home and work within the county.

Hale WalkerHale Walker, co-owner of Michigan Mutual, with offices in Southfield and Port Huron, will serve as the initial selection committee chairman in St. Clair County.

“We’ve taken a fresh look at the long history of traditional scholarships and feel we can have a greater economic impact by reversing the sequence and paying students after they’ve successfully graduated and moved back home,” he said.

While the final details are being put in place to begin accepting applications in early 2016, the participating community foundations expect minimum awards will be $10,000 per applicant and will be paid out on a quarterly-end basis over a year or more depending on the individual award.

Applicants must be living outside the county at the time of application, and they need to secure a job or create their own business within 120 days of receiving the award. The award money may only be used to pay off existing student debt.

“We anticipate that this reverse scholarship award will appeal to young college graduates in their late twenties, who still have some student debt, and are weighing the options for returning home to start a family,” Walker said.

The Huron County Community Foundation, along with their partner, the Economic Development Corporation of Huron County, has already secured a legal opinion supporting this new program from Clark Hill law firm. 

They were supported by the Council of Michigan Foundations which will be assembling a “how to” manual for other community foundations that may want to implement their own Reverse Scholarship program.

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