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Council split on how to retool Promise Scholarship program

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Michigan City City Hall (copy)

Michigan City City Hall

MICHIGAN CITY —  Two ordinances on retooling the Michigan City Promise Scholarship program have been tabled for a month as the City Council goes back to the drawing board.

A council workshop on the issue has been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 19.

The council is split on how to expand the scholarship program to give away more money.

One of the ordinances offered last week would have created a tier system for scholarships, with children of homeowners given the most money, up to $5,000 a year for four years of college. Children of renters and Michigan City Area School students who live outside the city could be given up to $3,500 a year under that proposal.

Students would have to attend Michigan City Area Schools from middle school through 12th grade to receive the full amount.

The ordinance acknowledges the current housing market isn’t sufficient to encourage new home purchases, but the public schools still need support.

A separate ordinance would have opened the scholarship program to private school graduates as well, as long as the graduates live in Michigan City. Homeownership or rental status wouldn’t matter under that proposed ordinance.

Councilwoman Dalia Zygaz, D-at large, and Bryant Dabney, D-1st, removed their names from the first ordinance, which ordinarily would have effectively killed it.

But Councilman Sean Fitzpatrick, D-4th, agreed to sponsor it to keep it alive and immediately asked that it be tabled.

At a previous meeting, the council was split over whether to keep the current requirement that the scholarship recipient be a graduate of Michigan City High School rather than any other school. The idea at the time the scholarship program was established was to support the public school system.

A separate goal then was to promote homeownership. The council has recently supported including renters, however, to boost the city’s educational attainment rate.

Other debates have centered on whether to give partial support for graduate school if the student earned enough dual credits to graduate from college in less than four years and whether to allow scholarship money to be used for trade schools or other institutions offering post-secondary instruction but not a four-year degree.

“This thing needs to be looked at from top to bottom,” Dabney said. He promised a retooled version of the Promise Scholarship program will be brought back to the council for consideration.

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