Michigan Launches Free College Tuition Program For Adults Without Degrees
The state of Michigan launched Michigan Reconnect on Tuesday. It’s a $30 million program that will provide scholarships to millions of eligible Michigan adults without college degrees, enabling them to earn a tuition-free associate degree or skills certificate at their in-district community college
The new program also will offer a large tuition discount (equal to in-district tuition) for individuals who attend an out-of-district community college and will cover up to $1,500 in a Skills Scholarship for those who enroll in one of the more than 70 private training schools that are offering certificates in high-demand careers in industries such as manufacturing, construction, information technology, healthcare or business management.
Michigan Reconnect scholarships are the result of a bipartisan piece of legislation that Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) and Michigan lawmakers signed into law last year.
“The bipartisan Michigan Reconnect program will connect thousands of Michiganders to good-paying jobs and connect businesses with the talent they need to thrive in their communities,” Gov. Whitmer said upon signing the bill, noting it would help the state progress toward its goal of having 60% of Michigan residents hold a postsecondary degree. As of 2019, only 41% of Michigan’s working-age residents had an associate degree or higher, ranking it 31st in the nation on that measure of educational attainment.
Applications for the financial aid began Tuesday. The eligibility requirements are minimal and include:
- Be at least 25 years old;
- Have lived in Michigan for a year or more;
- Have a high school diploma or GED;
- Have not yet completed an associate’s or bachelor’s degree;
- Not be in default on a federal student loan.
It’s estimated that as many as 4.1 million Michiganders would be potentially eligible for the scholarships. The Reconnect aid will kick in after other federal and state financial support for which a student is eligible has been applied. Depending on the demand, Michigan may need to come up with more funds beyond the initial $30 million to keep the new program fully funded.
“All Michiganders deserve a pathway to a good-paying job, whether they choose to pursue a college degree, technical certificate, or an apprenticeship,” Gov. Whitmer said during a virtual news conference on Tuesday. She added, “I’m proud of the hard work that has gone into creating this historic new opportunity and look forward to continuing bipartisan work with lawmakers toward our goal of ensuring 60% of Michiganders will have a postsecondary degree by 2030.”
Fox 17 News quoted Michigan State Senator Ken Horn (R) as saying, “Even if Michigan were able to keep every high school and college graduate, it wouldn’t be enough to fill our state’s talent gap. Our aim with Michigan Reconnect is to meet our state’s workforce need by encouraging and assisting residents to afford and achieve a college credential or advanced certificate. Now our state has a tool to reach out to adults wanting to pursue postsecondary education, if they choose to.”
At the same virtual announcement, John Walsh, president of the Michigan Manufacturers Association, cited the need for this kind of support, “What unites all of manufacturing is the need for talent. It’s a desperate need for skilled talent. There’s a skills gap that we need to address. That’s why we are so excited about Michigan Reconnect. It is, in every sense, a win-win for everybody. It gives us economic stability in the state of Michigan and makes us a leader in workforce development and education.”
Although the Michigan program targets adults who have not earned a degree or certificate, it will still provide support for those who are already pursuing a community college degree or certificate but have not yet completed their programs.
Michigan joins nearly 20 states that offer some form of tuition-free community college, with a wide range of eligibility requirements imposed. Several more are giving consideration to starting similar programs, but if President Biden has his way, free community college could assume a national scope.
As part of his higher education platform, Biden has pledged that he will make community college tuition-free in addition to paying tuition for students who attend a public four-year college and come from families earning less than $125,000 a year. Biden has also voiced his support for forgiving $10,000 of federally backed student loan debt for each borrower.
Published at Wed, 03 Feb 2021 11:00:00 +0000