The University of Michigan

Jerry Ford's senior year Michiganensian yearbook Hall of Fame entry, 1934. Courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library.


Ford was strapped for cash for the entirety of his collegiate career, but he made ends meet with the help of many friends. The 1930-31 academic handbook informed students that their first year would cost an estimated $833. This figured included $98 for tuition, $490 for room and board, and $150 for incidental expenses. This posed a problem for Ford and his family. His step-father's paint business was struggling through the Depression, so Jerry would have to look elsewhere for financial aid.


His high school principal pledged his support early on. “[Principal] Krause came to me one day,” Ford recalled, “and said, ‘Tuition at the university is $100 a year, and I know your Dad doesn’t have that.  And I know you can work this summer for him at forty cents an hour. But that’s not going to give you much money to go to Ann Arbor. You know, we have a book store at South. And I think we ought to start a scholarship with the profits.  I think we’ll make the first award to Jerry Ford.’ And that’s how I got my tuition,” Ford recalled.


Others helped as well. Michigan football coach Harry Kipke made sure Ford had a job awaiting him on campus. A few times a semester he sold his blood for $25 a pint to the University Hospital. Another source of income came from his dad’s sister, Aunt Rua, and her husband, Roy Laforge. Each was in sales, and together the couple was childless.  They pledged weekly support. “Every Monday I got a $2 check, and that was my spending money.”


Funds would always be tight, but Jerry made the most of his college experience. He studied economics and political science with good marks, and had a standout career at the center position for the football team. He became involved with Greek life during the spring of his freshman year, and made friends that would remain in his life for years to come. In his senior year, he was selected as a member of Michigamua, one of the school's honor societies. All in all, Jerry's undergraduate years were marked by success and prestige.