LANSING — State Reps. Sheryl Kennedy (D-Davison), Ben Frederick (R-Owosso) and members of the Rise, Inc. student organization held a press conference this morning to call for action on legislation that would ensure Michigan residents have access to the affordable higher education they deserve.

“We must equip Michigan’s students with every advantage to keep them competitive in this fast-moving job market, and that includes recognizing various pathways open to students pursuing success,” said Kennedy, a lifelong teacher and administrator. “Now is the time to throw open the doors of higher education for students throughout our state and provide them the support they need to succeed in this rapidly changing 21st-century economy.”

Kennedy’s MI Opportunity Scholarship Program (House Bill 4464) would provide last-dollar tuition assistance to eligible students for up to three years of community college, or until the student earns 60 semester credits and/or an associate degree.  Eligible low- or middle-income students with a enrolling in a four-year college or university would also be able to apply for tuition assistance to make college more affordable and lower their debt burden.

As a former adult learner, I am well aware of the hurdles older students face in completing their education,” said Frederick. “Through bipartisan efforts like Reconnect, we will provide a path to sustainable employment to tens of thousands of our residents.”

Modeled on a highly successful bipartisan program in Tennessee, Frederick’s MI Reconnect Grant Program (House Bill 4456) is an economic-growth and workforce development program that provides a tuition-free pathway to an in-demand industry certificate or associate degree for Michigan adults aged 25 and older.

“These proposals offer students across Michigan a great opportunity to improve their life by offering them a secure and supportive path for higher education or training,” said Amina Elamin, a member of Rise, Inc. and current University of Michigan student who transferred from Grand Rapids Community College. “Not only will it make a significant difference in the lives of students who are low income or non-traditional but it will be a valuable investment in the future of our communities and local workforce.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer challenged the Legislature during her first State of the State address to expand access to community college and provide additional support for students pursuing careers in skilled trades through technical education. Both HBs 4464 and 4456 are currently before the House Appropriations Committee.