Students walking on campus


The Empowering Futures Gift lays the foundation for a new era of college education. With a goal to transform and inspire, Western's first initiatives made possible by this historic $550 million contribution to the WMU Foundation support the University's mission, "So that all may learn."

The funds will provide not only a tuition-free education but also low-cost housing, an innovative Living Learning Community, internship stipends to foster career development and graduation scholarships for 1,350 new and current Broncos during year one alone. 

The first comprehensive support of its kind, it will remove barriers that often keep underrepresented and underserved students from starting their collegiate journey or seeing it through to graduation.


  • Access: A projected 600 new students each year will receive the Bronco Promise, a commitment to tuition-free education for up to five years for those in need.

  • Community: Broncos in need will receive low-cost housing in a new Living Learning Community to guide exploration that leads to purpose and a meaningful career.

  • Tenacity: The University will award 800 graduation scholarships up to $1,000 each year to upper-level students in need of funds to complete their degree.

  • Opportunity: Students can receive pay for their internships at private and nonprofit organizations to still meet financial responsibilities while learning on the job.

Empowering access

The first obstacle to overcome to earn a degree is affording a college education. The new Bronco Promise will provide a tuition-free WMU education for up to five years for eligible first-year students. The University anticipates awarding these incredible scholarships to 340 students in year one and 600 annually upon full implementation. 

Western is committed to opening the doors to higher education for all students who have the talent and determination to succeed. Eligible students must meet all of the following criteria:

  • First-year student for fall entry in the year of admittance.
  • Michigan resident, as defined by WMU's Residency Policy.
  • Have a family household AGI of $50,000 or less and net assets under $50,000.

There is no special application for the program, but Bronco Promise participants are required to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year and must participate in WMU’s financial literacy training to qualify. 

A student writing at a desk.

  • Frequently asked questions

    How is the Bronco Promise funded?

    The Bronco Promise expands upon federal Pell support to cover the cost of tuition. In students’ first two years, the first $1,200 of the Bronco Promise support will be funded by the gift. The balance for the entirety of the five-year scholarships will be funded by institutional aid dollars.

    What does the Bronco Promise cover?

    The Bronco Promise covers WMU resident (in-state) tuition and can be applied to up to 15 credit hours each semester. It also covers differential tuition as well as the assessment and sustainability fees. Awards may be applied to fall and spring semesters only.

    Class fees such as those for instructional resources, laboratories, field trips or industry specialists as well as fees for participating in Lee Honors College are not included in the program.

    What do I need to do to maintain eligibility once I enroll?

    For the duration of enrollment, participants must complete the FAFSA each year and maintain a family household AGI of $50,000 or less and net assets under $50,000. Students must accept all federal and state need-based scholarships and grants—but not loans—for which they are eligible. They must also accept any offered admissions scholarships and location-based scholarships, such as the Kalamazoo Promise, as well as WMU’s employee tuition benefits program, if they are eligible.

    The program begins in the fall term of the year of admittance. To maintain eligibility, participants must be enrolled full time in the fall and spring semester for up to five consecutive years until graduation and remain in satisfactory academic progress.

Access quote

  • As a student who comes from a single-parent family, I know that I wouldn’t be here today … if it weren’t for the financial help I was able to obtain from Western Michigan University. Knowing that this university will now offer even more opportunities for future students makes me even prouder to be one of its students.

    Aunner Calderon '22, from Grand Rapids

Empowering community

Housing costs can be the deciding factor when a student determines if they can afford to complete their degree. The Bronco Connect Scholarship will provide up to $6,000 in WMU housing and dining scholarships to eligible incoming students for their first year.

The first-year recipients of this scholarship will live in the Bronco Connect Community. This new Living Learning Community is designed to create belonging and provide enhanced career exploration, community engagement, study skills and campus life.

Preference for these need-based scholarships will be given to admitted first-year who attend Kalamazoo Public Schools or have a Detroit or Grand Rapids address, but all other Michigan residents are eligible to apply. 

Applications for the first-year award are due by March 31; decisions will be released in April.

  • I reflect on the experiences I had at Western, and I'm so thankful that I had so many people helping me along the way.

    —Caitlin Wiley '19, from Fenton, Michigan

Students sitting outside on campus.

Bronco Connect Community

Living Learning Communities create belonging and are proven to improve student outcomes—academic performance, persistence and graduation rates. However, most communities are organized around a major. This new community reaches beyond that, connecting students with the full range of opportunities at WMU.

Empowering tenacity

A student smiling in front of Miller Fountain in her graduation cap and gown.

Many students who demonstrate they can succeed in college eventually run into unexpected obstacles like bills or losing their job. To overcome these challenges, the Empowering Futures Gift is committed to helping 800 upper-level undergraduate students each year with a need-based award up to $1,000—doubling the number of graduation scholarships currently offered.

The funds can be applied to tuition and fees so Broncos can continue their education and finish their degree. Eligible students must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Full-time.
  • In their third, fourth or fifth year of education at WMU.
  • In good academic standing, meaning they have a 2.0 GPA or higher.

This program requires students to complete the FAFSA and financial literacy training to qualify. Eligible students are identified based on their financial aid and accounts receivable status; however, students may request to be considered through a referral in Bronco Express.

Empowering opportunity quote

  • WMU really helped me get connected with professionals in the Kalamazoo area that turned into mentors for me. They helped me better my portfolio and gave me tips and tricks of the trade.

    Madison Dempster '21, from Evanston, Illinois

Empowering opportunity

A student wearing safety glasses works on a piece of machinery.

As Broncos begin discovering their passion, experiential learning activities like internships become invaluable opportunities for career exploration and securing their first job. However, not all employers offer compensation that is sufficient to cover students' living and other financial responsibilities, which becomes a barrier for students who must choose between paid work and an internship. 

The Empowering Futures Gift is fostering the creation of the Broncos Lead Internship Program, which will provide pay for students exploring internship experiences at private and nonprofit organizations.

  • Knowing that Western has given me the tools to be a successful person out in the world and seeing the change that I made makes me proud.

    —Taylor Gaines '21, from Detroit

    Read Taylor's story


The University is creating a holistic approach to education. The Empowering Futures Gift enables Western to create a comprehensive method for student success that includes and reaches beyond financial assistance. Students need support. They need guidance. They need the University to join them on their journey.

Early in 2022, we will announce innovative new support for students that will be funded by the Empowering Futures Gift and will enable them to pursue their purpose, live well and begin a meaningful career. We’re just getting started.

Content last updated Sept. 28, 2023, and is subject to change without notice.