LANSING — Today, House Democrats announced an innovative plan to provide debt-free community college to all qualified Michigan residents. The average Michigan college graduate begins their career with more than $30,000 in student loan debt. The HirED Opportunity Act slashes the cost of higher education by providing full-tuition scholarships to qualified individuals.
“Skyrocketing higher education costs have priced too many of our best and brightest out of the educational opportunities that would prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow, and our state has suffered because of it, said House Democratic Leader Sam Singh (D-East Lansing). “The HirED Opportunity Act not only ensures that every student has the opportunity to build economic security for themselves and their family, but that Michigan has the well-trained, highly-equipped workforce it needs to compete in the global marketplace.”
Currently, nearly forty-seven percent of Michiganders have either an associate’s degree or higher, or an equivalent certificate in a technical field. However, forty percent of Michigan households do not earn enough money to afford the cost of housing, food, child care, health care and transportation, according to a 2017 report from the United Way’s ALICE Project. Numerous studies have tied increased training and education to higher wages and lower unemployment, including a 2017 study from the College Board. The HirED Opportunity Act would provide Michiganders with a debt-free option to learn the skills they need for the good-paying career they want.
“A strong economy starts with a well-educated workforce, and our plan makes achieving that education possible without forcing students to strap themselves to massive student loans,” said state Rep. Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor). “No one should be priced out of the education they need for a job that allows them to take care of their families, plan for the future and save for retirement. If you’re ready and willing to learn, to receive the training you need to join the workforce, earn a strong paycheck and help move Michigan’s economy forward, the HirED Opportunity Act provides you with the tools you need to build success.”
Beginning in the 2019-2020 academic year, recent high school graduates who enroll full-time in a community college program would be eligible to receive a Community College Opportunity Scholarship for debt-free tuition, under the HirED Opportunity Act. In order to maintain eligibility of the last dollar scholarship, students would participate in a mentorship program, give back to their community through a community service component, and maintain a 2.0 GPA and continuous academic enrollment for up to 2 years. Alternatively, adults seeking to return to school to earn a new credential, receive skills training or fulfill a degree program would be eligible for debt-free tuition through a new career program focused on high-demand and/or emerging industries.
“As a first-generation high school and college graduate, I know firsthand the added value that higher education and skilled training provide, absent burdensome student loan debt,” said state Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit). “Every Michigander deserves that freedom to choose their own educational and economic future, regardless of zip code or family earning history. The HirED Opportunity Act paves the way, allowing students the freedom to build a better, more secure life for themselves and their family without being saddled with massive debt.”