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Gov. Whitmer expands tuition-free education access to community college, transfer pathways

October 18, 2023
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer greets guests for the State of the State address in The House Chamber at the Capital Building in Lansing on Jan. 25, 2023.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer greets guests for the State of the State address in The House Chamber at the Capital Building in Lansing on Jan. 25, 2023.

Michigan Reconnect provides eligible students with the opportunity to work towards an associate's degree or Pell-eligible skills certificates tuition-free, hoping to connect students that took a break from education with more opportunities to earn degrees. 

This program was established by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2021. Whitmer recently lowered the age qualification requirement for Michigan Reconnect from 25 to 21 years old, opening the opportunity to younger students. 

Applicants aged 21 to 24 must enroll no later than the 2024 fall semester. After this period, it will revert to 25 years of age and up. 

“It opens an opportunity for those individuals to pursue a college education that they may not have been able to do so based on any competing priorities in their life," Ronda Miller, dean of student affairs at Lansing Community College or LCC, said. 

Miller explained some of these priorities would be having a family to provide for, taking priority over a higher education.

Miller referred back to a conversation she had with a student who talked about how she wanted to pursue higher education because she wanted to be a role model for her children. 

Journalism freshman Ben Chirhart, who transferred from a community college to MSU, said that this scholarship helps individuals “accomplish the goals and accomplish the dreams that they want to accomplish.”

Chirhart said Michigan Reconnect is one way for individuals to have more options. 

Human capital and society senior Maddie Shlaimoon transferred from a community college to MSU. She said Michigan Reconnect opens a lot of doors for people. 

“Lowering the age creates more of an opportunity," Shlaimoon said. 

She also talked about the improvement of career opportunities through getting a higher education. Shlaimoon said this scholarship will help people get through the door and achieve their dreams.

Chirhart said at 21 years old, most people have to pay for things out of their own paychecks. He said instead of having to work more to afford higher education, these students would be able to start that process immediately.

"It shows individuals who may have thought college is not within their reach that it is obtainable," Miller said. 

Schlaimoon also talked about Michigan Reconnect expanding the demographic of students on college campuses. 

“If we can help them build a sense of community, help them understand that they bring a unique aspect to the college campus to their classrooms that increases the diversity of thought," Miller said. 

Schlaimoon said, “Not everyone has the opportunity or the privilege just to pay for it out of pocket.”

Schlaimoon said the stress of transferring can be overwhelming, so having Michigan Reconnect can make the transfer process easier. 

Miller said that Michigan Reconnect sets up pathways for others who may not think they can afford college or aren’t a good fit for college to see other individuals pursue and succeed in college.

“Michigan Reconnect is an educational game changer," Miller said. 

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