Dr. Mark Schlissel: Go Blue Guarantee helps low-income students

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

During his five years at the helm of the University of Michigan, President Mark Schlissel has brought forth several impactful initiatives such as a five-year plan for diversity and efforts to ease poverty in the community, including Detroit.

But there is nothing he is more proud of than the creation of a program to help low-income students attend the state's most prestigious university. Known as the Go Blue Guarantee, the program offers four years of free undergraduate tuition to qualified, in-state students from Michigan families earning $65,000 annually or less.

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel at the President's House, the oldest building on campus.

Based on UM professor Susan Dynarski's research examining how to attract talented, high-needs students, the Go Blue Guarantee has covered tuition at the state's most competitive university for approximately 1,700 students since its launched in fall 2018.  

Schlissel said the program is helping UM fulfill its commitment to educate talented kids regardless of their family background.

More:Meet the 2019 Michiganians of the Year

"If I had to pick out one thing during my first five-year term in office as president of the university, this is the thing I am proudest of, the Go Blue Guarantee," Schlissel said. 

"Educational opportunity is a mission that the university is responsible for across our state, and I know there are talented kids in all parts of the socioeconomic spectrum. Bringing them here to the university will transform their lives and the lives of their families. It will change their economic horizons now and into the future."

Among the state's 15 public universities, UM ranks among the highest for tuition, which is $15,558 for full time, undergraduate students in 2019-20.

The Go Blue Guarantee has been "incredibly successful," in expanding aid for students from low-income families, Schlissel said. During the first year, applications from students from families earning less than $65,000 increased 26%, and there was a 6% increase of students attending the university. This year's numbers are not yet available.

Michael McMain, a 21-year-old UM senior from Warren, has qualified for the program since it began and said it has been critical for him so he could focus on his studies and not worry about how he was going to pay for his education.

University of Michigan's President Mark Schlissel and Governor Gretchen Whitmer cheer to the UM fight song.

He said he believes it's important for students who come from a similar family background as him to have the Go Blue Guarantee to pay for their tuition at UM.

"Any kind of diversity in the university is important, but especially diversity of thought," said McMain, who is studying economics math, statistics and philosophy.

"There tends to be a lot of different thoughts between social classes and socioeconomic status. Campus is pretty underrepresented in terms of lower social economic status, so  really anything that can help change that is incredibly valuable."


Dr. Mark Schlissel 

Age: 61

Occupation: President, University of Michigan

Education: Princeton University,  A.B., summa cum laude, biochemical sciences

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, M.D. and Ph.D. 

Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Whitehead Institute, post doctoral research, Bristol-Myers Cancer Research Fellow 

Family: Monica Schwebs, wife, an environmental and energy lawyer. Four grown children and one granddaughter.

Why honored: For launching the Go Blue Guarantee, which provides free undergraduate tuition to in-state students from families in Michigan earning $65,000 or less.