Realtor hopes free college ‘levels playing field’

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids realtors are among those excited about a new program that will provide free college tuition for hundreds of students living on Grand Rapids’ west side.

School officials are slated to Tuesday announce an expansion of the Challenge Scholars program, which would promise college funding for students who commit to the program when they are in the sixth grade.

The program is currently in effect at Harrison Park Elementary and Westwood Middle School and the tuition guarantee only applies to students who graduate from Union High School.

“When new opportunities come into the city and people can grab onto them and make the best of them, everybody wins,” said Diane Griffin, the CEO of Griffin Properties. “Right now we have many areas that are known for their schools, but we also have many areas that are known for being great areas. And when you can have a great area to live in and a great school and opportunity, it’s a wonderful opportunity.”

Available schools are often a major factor when deciding to buy a home, and Grand Rapids Public Schools are often compared with more affluent suburban districts.

“I really feel like this levels the playing field for people choosing between living urban, living in suburbs, being concerned about schools, and wanting to do the best thing for their family both from a community standpoint and an education standpoint,” Griffin said.

Griffin wouldn’t speculate on what the program might do to home values in the area, but says the benefactors putting the money behind the idea send a bold message about the people who live in West Michigan.

The program is expected to assist 200 students each year at a cost of about $2.4 million per year. The first group of students to benefit from the program will graduate in 2020.

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