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New program to provide free tuition to low-income students

SVSU has recently implemented a free-tuition program for qualifying students called the Cardinal Commitment.

J.J. Boehm, the director of SVSU Media and Community Relations, said the program would build on the university’scommitment to increasing institutional student aid.

“We know many students and families suffered financially in 2020 due to the pandemic, and some had simply written off the possibility of going to college for financial reasons,” Boehm said. “This initiative opens the door for conversations with those students and families.”

Even prior to the pandemic, SVSU officials had been monitoring tuition costs and financial aid offerings.

“We didn’t create the Cardinal Commitment because of the pandemic, but we do recognize that more families are suffering financially and finding it harder to think about college options after high school graduation,” said Jennifer Pahl, the director of admissions. “SVSU has always maintained low tuition rates, but the timing was right this year for us to offer this program.”

Students whose family income is less than $50,000 qualify for free tuition. The program follows FAFSA guidelines, which means students’ and parents’ combined income is considered in most individual cases.

The program is for new first-time-in-college undergraduate students who begin this fall.

“Employers need an educated workforce,” Boehm said. “Michigan has set an ambitious goal of seeing at least 60 percent of adults completing a college degree or credential by 2030. To meet those goals, we must expand the talent pipeline, and that includes outreach to students who are fully capable of completing a degree but face financial barriers.”

Boehm said the university hopes to increase admission rates through the program.

“It’s too early to make projections, but as a point of reference, there were around 350 students in the 2020 freshman class who would have qualified for the Cardinal Commitment,” he said. “Most of these students saw their tuition and fees fully covered under the programs we had in place.”

Increases are already visible, Pahl said.

“Within the first week after making this announcement, we saw an increase in applications for admission,” she said. “This commitment could be the deciding factor for students selecting where they plan to enroll in the fall.”

While SVSU is not the first university in Michigan to implement programs like this, it is still the least expensive public university in the state.

Even though the program is only for incoming undergraduate students, many current students have financial aid packages that fully cover tuition.

SVSU’s Office of Admissions is also working on additional support for current students.

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