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Nursing deal and college affordability in Michigan higher-ed budget pact

Michigan State University
College and university advocacy groups are praising the state’s new budget that features boosts in operations funding, scholarship investments and increased funding per pupil at some schools. (EQRoy /

In a marathon budget session that stretched into the early hours of Friday, Michigan lawmakers approved higher-education budgets that include significant investment in the state’s two-year colleges and four-year universities. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has not signed the bills into law yet but said in a statement Friday she will “review and sign it as soon as possible.”

    The highlights: 

    Nursing programs: Community colleges, public and private universities have reached an agreement on a plan to make it easier for students to earn a four-year bachelor’s degree in nursing on a community college campus.  The program is funded at $56 million. 

    This agreement aims to increase the number of nurses with bachelor’s  degrees as employers demonstrate a strong preference for workers with four-year nursing degrees, over those with two-year degrees. It also would end competition between community colleges and the universities, which have long questioned whether community colleges should be able to offer 4-year bachelor’s nursing programs


    Michigan Association of State Universities CEO Dan Hurley said this agreement will strengthen collaboration rather than competition.

    Michigan Community College Association Brandy Johnson said she believes the model could become a national example. Under the deal, students can earn a two-year associate degree, enabling them to work as registered nurses while finishing their four-year degree. Community college instructors would teach courses the first three years, with university instructors teaching the fourth year on the community college campus.

    Johnson said the programming will make it a seamless experience for students who can stay in their communities while working as a nurse. She called the investment a “monumental win.” 

    Michigan Reconnect:

    The Michigan Reconnect program enables Michigan residents 25 and old to attend an in-district community college tuition-free. An effort to expand the program to people 21 and older did not succeed.  

    However, the budget does include $6 million for short-term training for qualified occupational or private training programs for people as young as 21.

    Per-pupil college funding: Some of Michigan’s 4-year universities receive state appropriates of less than $4,500 per student. The new deal includes a three-year plan to ensure those schools reach $4,500 per student. 

    Helping students catch up: There is $10 million set aside for community colleges to help students catch up academically. 

    Making college more affordable: The deal set aside $250 million for a state scholarship program. No details have been offered yet, but previously the Senate had proposed a $361 million plan that would give eligible students up to $3,000 a year for community college and $6,000 a year for a 4-year public or private university in Michigan.

    Both Hurley, representing the universities, and Johnson, of the community college group, expressed optimism $250 million could help improve college affordability for future students. 

    Students eligible for existing state programs will also see a funding bump:

    • The annual Michigan Competitive Scholarship will rise from $1,000 to $1,500. Awards are given to high school graduates based on SAT scores and filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
    • The annual Michigan Tuition grant will rise from $2,800 to $3,000. This program provides money to students who demonstrate financial need and are attending a private college. 

    There is also budget language that make it easier for high school students to get dual enrollment credits transferred to a university.

    Universities will not be able to automatically reject credits based on if the courses were taken on a high school campus or virtual setting. Universities will not be able to factor whether a dual enrollment course only included high school students rather than high school students mixed in with college students. Acceptance of those credits can also not be determined based on if the dual enrollment credits were also used to meet high school graduation requirements. 


    Community colleges will receive about $16 million more in operations funding compared to last year bringing the total $341.2 million, which includes $1.4 million for the Michigan Indian Tuition Waiver, Johnson said. 

    Universities will receive about $1.6 billion in operations funding, about $55 million more than before, Hurley said.

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