03/06/2012 05:40 pm ET

Michigan 2020 Plan To Give Tuition Grants To Undergrads Promoted With $10,000 Scholarship Competition

Free in-state college tuition for every Michigan student is a real possibility under a new state Democrat-backed plan. It's called "Michigan 2020," and it's also the reason for a new competitive scholarship.

The college affordability plan, announced in January and set to be introduced later this week with approval from Michigan Senate Democrats, would give each graduate of a Michigan high school an education grant of approximately $9,500 each year for in-state university or community college tuition. The estimated $1.8 billion proposal would be funded by putting a term limit on corporate tax credits and charging state sales tax to online retailers.

The newly launched #mi2020 Scholarship Competition will be a $10,000 blessing for one student -- and perfect promotional tactic for the Senate Democrats' Michigan 2020 Plan. Participants must create a video explaining the impact of the proposed legislation.

The video competition is one part social media marketing, one part crowd-sourcing, and an attempt to rally students and their parents around the Democrats' legislative agenda.

"We're encouraging students to be as creative as they can about what this plan could mean for them," said Robert McCann, communications director for the Michigan Senate Democrats.

The competition will be partially decided by public voting -- so the savvy 17-year-old who takes to Twitter to promote his or her video with the scholarship's built-in hashtag will have a leg up on the competition. After the entry period closes on April 20, public voting begins, with the top 20 vote-winners, and perhaps most viral videos, going on to the finals. The winner will be chosen at the end of May by a second round of voting and a panel of judges.

The Michigan 2020 proposal comes as President Obama campaigns on a platform to make college more affordable, in part by encouraging universities to slow tuition increases.

In Michigan, college affordability is an issue that resonates with undergrads and their families. College costs have risen dramatically statewide, after Gov. Rick Snyder cut higher education funding 15 percent last year, but also forced state colleges and universities to cap their tuition increases at 7 percent. Many institutions raised tuition to just below the cap, passing on the costs to students.

While the 2020 plan would not cover all costs at some institutions -- at University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, in-state tuition and fees total over $12,000 per year -- the grants would go a long way to making college affordable across the board without saddling students with large loans to repay once they've graduated.

The #mi2020 scholarship competition is backed by private donors who support the Michigan 2020 plan and want to raise its profile.

"While we're giving one student the opportunity to take advantage of it this year, we're hoping all students will be able to," in the future, said McCann.

For more information and to enter the video competition, see