Tuition-free Michigan Reconnect program expands to 21 year olds. What to know
- Michigan Reconnect is temporarily expanded for adults 21 and older seeking an associate degree
- The program grants scholarships that pay for community college or trade program
- Applicants must apply by Nov. 15, 2024
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this week announced an expansion to the Michigan Reconnect program that pays for community college, lowering the minimum age from 25 to 21 years old.
Applicants must lack a college degree, have lived in Michigan for at least one year and have a high-school or equivalency diploma.
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The program has been temporarily expanded until fall semester, 2024. Applications for the scholarship program close on Nov. 15, 2024.
“With low unemployment, growing advanced manufacturing industries, and strong small business growth, we need to expand Reconnect to bolster our pipeline for talented workers,” Whitmer said in a written statement.
Whitmer established Michigan Reconnect in 2021 in an effort to get 60 percent of the state’s workforce to earn a postsecondary degree or training by 2030. Over 132,000 Michigan adults have since applied.
The $70 million temporary expansion would give another 350,000 Michiganders the opportunity to earn an associate degree.
Studies show that income increases along with education levels. In 2022, Michigan residents with a high school diploma earned an average of $17,700 after one year of working compared to those with an associate degree who earned $39,700.
The expansion comes as community colleges and public universities have suffered enrollment declines in-part from declining birth rates and from pandemic-related issues.
In all, 52.8 percent of Michigan high school 2022 school graduates attended a college within six months of graduation, compared to an average of 62.9 percent in the three years preceding the COVID-19 pandemic.
During her state of the state address in January, Whitmer urged lawmakers to lower the minimum age for the program from 25 to 21.
The governor signed two bills in 2022 to modify the program, which originally included a provision to expand the program. Lawmakers removed that language before she signed the bills.
“Across the country, we've seen pretty significant declines in college enrollment since COVID over the last three years, particularly among traditional age students right out of high school,” said Brandy Johnson, president of the Michigan Community College Association.
“Because of (Michigan) Reconnect, Michigan's colleges were able to hold steady and not fall into the same patterns as our counterparts in other states.”
Johnson said she hopes to target the young adults who graduated high school in 2020 and 2021. This demographic had the most significant decline in enrollment.
Between 2019 and 2020, the number of high school graduates enrolled in a two-year college in Michigan dropped from 23.1 percent to 18.2 percent. Then, in 2021 enrollment dropped to 16.2 percent.
Two-year college enrollment suffered the most but largest universities had a dip in enrollment as well: 36.4 percent of high school graduates were enrolled in the four-year university in 2020. That number slightly rose to 37.3 percent the following year.
“We will be working with MichiganWorks! agencies, with employers and just sort of the general public to get the word out that this population is eligible,” Johnson said.
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