If you live in Michigan and are over the age of 25 and wishing you had a way to attend college for free, you’re in luck. Thanks to a program called Michigan Reconnect, adults over 25 now have the opportunity to attend a community college for free.
Officially launched on February 2nd, Thomas Saelens, Site Director with Mott Community College tells UDC that the $30 million program has been in the works for several years. The program, backed by bipartisan support, is a way to help boost the state of Michigan’s workforce with the necessary training and skills.
“A high school diploma just simply isn’t enough and it’s critical that we help Michiganders without a post-secondary education get on a path towards a good-paying job,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer in a press conference announcing the program. “Our aim for Michigan Connect is to meet the state’s need for talent, by making it possible and affordable for working-age Michiganders to earn a degree or certificate. This an area where we can all agree,” added State Senator Ken Horn.
Michigan Reconnect is a program that will offer tuition to over 70 private training schools that have 120 programs to train workers in high-demand industries including manufacturing, construction, information technology, healthcare or business management. “There’s a huge need for more trade careers in Michigan,” Saelens notes. “More individuals in the workforce are retiring and there’s a high demand for trade skills such as CAD, automotive, plumbing, electrical, etc.”
What the Program Covers
The Michigan Reconnect program works three ways, depending on where you attend school:
- For schools in the district you live in: the program will cover 100% of your tuition for an associate’s degree or skill certificate at a community college.
- For schools outside of the district you live in: the program will reimburse you for a portion of the tuition for an associate’s degree or skill certificate. You are responsible for paying anything left over.
- The third option is if you are interested in a private training provider– Reconnect can provide you with up to a $1,500 Skills Scholarship from an approved program.
For students who are attending a school in their district, the program will also cover mandatory fees and any extra charges for contact hours that the school charges for certain courses and programs. The only fees that the Reconnect program won’t cover are:
- Application and graduation/commencement fees
- Lab fees and course-specific fees
- Individual fees such as parking fees, fitness center fees, athletic fees, or anything else non-mandatory
- Textbooks and other course materials
Another important thing to note: if you qualify for a Pell grant, the Pell grant will first be applied to your tuition and bees first, and then the Reconnect program will be applied. (This is important to understand, as some students may make the mistake of thinking they can keep the Pell grant to cover other costs, like living expenses, while in school.)
While the in-district school option certainly is the most cost-effective, Saelens explains that if you do find a school out of your district that best meets your needs, there are additional resources available to you to help cover the difference in costs outside of what Reconnect pays. For instance, he notes that additional financial aid may be available and programs like Michigan Works can help as well.
The program’s website also recommends that you ask your prospective school to estimate your entire program’s cost and fees so you have a full picture of the total you will be responsible for, if any. Because you’ll get the most bang for your buck at a local community college, it’s usually highly beneficial to look local first. “Most community colleges have similar programs, so it’s usually most beneficial to go with the closest school to you that will meet your needs,” says Saelens.
Any Michigan resident over the age of 25 who has lived in the state for at least one year and hasn’t yet received a college degree is eligible to apply for the Michigan Reconnect program. The specific requirements are:
- Be at least 25 years old when you apply
- Have lived in Michigan for a year or more
- Have a high school diploma or equivalent
- Have not yet completed an associate’s or Bachelor’s college degree
Free college tuition that can provide an education in well-paid jobs such as nursing can be life-changing and the Michigan Reconnect website is full of stories of people who plan to utilize the program to change their lives. From a recent U.S. citizen dreaming of a career in the medical field to a father of four learning the skills he needs to own the pizza shop that has provided for his family during a pandemic to a single mother hoping to give back, it’s clear that this program will pave the way for positive changes for Michigan’s workforce.
If you’re ready to fill out an application or would like to learn more, you can visit the Michigan Reconnect website.