LANSING – State Rep. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) joined Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and fellow Republican and Democratic legislators today to announce the launch of the $30 million Michigan Reconnect program, the largest effort in state history to ensure that more than 4.1 million Michiganders who are 25 or older and do not have a college degree will have an opportunity to earn a tuition-free associate degree or skills certificate.
“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. “Michigan Reconnect will connect thousands of Michiganders to good-paying jobs and connect businesses with the talent they need to thrive in their communities. 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.”
Michigan Reconnect will pay the cost of tuition for eligible adults who want to pursue an associate degree or skills certificate at their in-district community college. The program also offers skills scholarships to help cover the cost of tuition through more than 70 private training schools with 120 programs that offer certificates in high-demand careers in industries such as manufacturing, construction, information technology, healthcare or business management.
“Michigan Reconnect is a win for Michiganders across our entire state,” Rep. Anthony said. “When adults earn degrees and gain new skills, they have the ability to advance in the workplace, earn higher wages and fulfill lifetime dreams.”
Starting today, Michiganders can submit applications at Michigan.gov/Reconnect. The application takes less than five minutes to complete and can be done on a mobile device.
Reconnect scholarships are accepted by all Michigan community colleges and are even available to eligible adults who are 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. For those who choose to attend an out-of-district community college, Reconnect will pay the in-district portion of tuition.
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)
Funding for Michigan Reconnect was introduced in Gov. Whitmer’s FY 2020-21 budget proposal. A bipartisan group of legislators – led by Rep. Anthony, state Sen. Ken Horn, R-Frankenmuth, state Sen. Jim Ananich, D-Flint, state Rep. Ben Frederick, R-Owosso, and former state Rep. Sheryl Kennedy, D-Davison – approved $30 million in state funding.
Michiganders without a college degree or training credential often face economic challenges. A 2020 analysis by the American Association of Community Colleges reports the median earnings of full-time employees with a high school degree is $40,510 annually, while those with an associate degree make $50,079 per year, based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
Individuals looking to take advantage of Reconnect who are unsure what they’d like to study are encouraged to consider some of Michigan’s high-demand careers. A list of those careers and wages by occupation and region is available on the Michigan Reconnect website.
Shabaka Bailey, 25, of Lansing, spoke at today’s virtual news conference and described Michigan Reconnect as an “almost too good to be true” opportunity.
Bailey learned about the program through a career coach at the Capital Area Michigan Works agency in Lansing. He is currently looking for work after receiving lay-offs last summer from a lumber yard and a local restaurant that closed due to the coronavirus.
“It’s hard right now with the pandemic,” said Bailey, who is the father of a 5-year-old son, Josiah, and 1-year-old daughter, Journi.
“I had thought about going to Lansing Community College to get my associate degree,” he said. “But I couldn’t afford to pay the cost of tuition and still support my kids at the same time. Michigan Reconnect is a great opportunity for me to pursue my dream now.
“I plan to enroll at LCC and begin their aviation program,” Bailey added. “I want to become an aviation technician and work on plane engines. I think that’s a good career for me that will allow me to make something of myself.”
While more than 8 in 10 parents of a Michigan high school student expect their child to earn a college degree, 70% said that high costs are a barrier, according to a survey commissioned by the Michigan Association of State Universities.
Michigan Reconnect is an ideal solution for those families and students who initially decided they couldn’t afford to pay tuition to attend community college or feared taking on student loan debt.
The program builds on the success of the Futures for Frontliners initiative Gov. Whitmer launched last September and to which more than 120,000 Michiganders submitted applications by the Dec. 31 deadline.
The nation’s first program of its kind, Futures for Frontliners offered tuition-free college or high school completion to Michiganders who provided essential front-line services during COVID-19 Stay Home, Stay Safe orders between April and June 2020.
Approximately 20,000 Michiganders who applied but didn’t qualify for Futures for Frontliners and are 25 years or older will automatically be eligible for tuition-free college assistance with Michigan Reconnect.
Eligible residents can learn more and apply for Michigan Reconnect at michigan.gov/Reconnect.