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‘Michigan Reconnect’ program offers free college tuition to Michiganders

Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 6:17 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WLUC) - Governor Whitmer launched a new program, called Michigan Reconnect, on February 2 allowing Michiganders to go to a community college or trade school in their district for free.

In a virtual press conference Monday, The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) voiced its support of the program.

The aim of Michigan Reconnect is to make it easier and more affordable than ever for adults with some or no college experience to earn a postsecondary degree or skills certificate. In northern Michigan and the U.P., 395,000 residents would be eligible for the scholarship.

“With more than 40,000 applications submitted statewide since the program launched on Feb. 2, the response to Michigan Reconnect is certainly off to a good start,” said Susan Corbin, acting director for LEO. “But we can’t stop there. In order to ensure all Michiganders have an opportunity for a prosperous future, we need all businesses, teachers, parents, family and friends encouraging those they work with or know to take that leap and take advantage of this opportunity to achieve their associate degree or skills certificate for little to no cost.”

To be eligible for Michigan Reconnect, you must:

  • Be at least 25 years old when you apply
  • Have lived in Michigan for a year or more
  • Have a high school diploma
  • Have not yet completed a college degree (associate or bachelor’s)

More than 4.1 million people in Michigan qualify for the program.

Reconnect scholarships are accepted by all Michigan community colleges and are also available to eligible adults already enrolled in their local community college. The program pays the remaining balance of tuition and mandatory fees after other state and federal financial aid have been applied.

“Our school and others in northern Michigan and the U.P. are seeing a huge interest in using Reconnect scholarships to begin – or sometimes to wrap up ­– that associate degree or skills certificate,” said Donald MacMaster, Alpena Community College president.

Eligible residents can attend community college tuition-free at the campus within their community college district. For those who don’t live in-district or choose to attend another campus, Reconnect will cover the in-district portion of tuition.

“While we understand that many residents in northern Michigan and the U.P. live outside a community college district, we believe discounting tuition helps make a postsecondary degree more affordable for everyone,” Corbin said.

Eligible program applicants in the U.P. include 5,316 residents in Alger County, 4,591 in Baraga County, 18,418 in Chippewa County, 17,384 in Delta County, 11,527 in Dickinson County, 7,804 in Gogebic County, 12,342 in Houghton County, 6,278 in Iron County, 947 in Keweenaw County, 3,545 in Luce County, 5,674 in Mackinac County, 25,731 in Marquette County, 12,526 in Menominee County, 3,565 in Ontonagon County and 4,617 in Schoolcraft County.

Bill Raymond, CEO of Upper Peninsula Michigan Works! said over 525,000 job openings in Michigan are projected through 2028. The openings are in fields such as information technology, computer science, manufacturing, health care and construction.

Only 34% of northern Michiganders 25 or older have an associate degree or higher, according to state Department of Technology, Management and Budget data.

“The reality of it is,” Escanaba’s Bay College president, Dr. Laura Coleman said. “In today’s world, over 65% of jobs require people to have higher education. "

Dr. Coleman said she strongly believes in the program and attending a community college first better prepares students for four-year universities.

“They make higher grades at the four year institution than the people who started at the four year institution because they’ve been able to get a really strong foundation at the community college.”

To apply visit the Michigan Reconnect website. There is no deadline to apply.

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