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Gov. Whitmer Hosts Higher Education Summit to Highlight Progress Made Toward Sixty by 30, Education Attainment in Michigan
August 09, 2023
DEARBORN, Mich. — Today, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer joined the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) to host a higher education summit at Henry Ford College. The event, attended by Michigan higher education officials, students and state leaders, highlighted progress toward the state’s Sixty by 30 attainment goal, to get 60% of working-age Michiganders a postsecondary degree or certificate by 2030. As of today, Michigan’s education attainment is 50.5%, up from 45% when the goal was first announced by the governor in 2019.
“Together, we have lowered costs and opened the doors of higher education to more Michiganders,” said Gov. Whitmer. “Last week, I signed my fifth bipartisan state budget which temporarily lowers the age of Michigan Reconnect, bolsters funding for colleges and universities, continues our commitment to the Michigan Achievement Scholarship, and invests in student success, including tuition assistance and basic needs support to increase graduation rates. The budget also funds the new Growing Michigan Together Council to help grow our population by attracting and retaining talent, with an emphasis on lifelong education. Together, we will ensure anyone can ‘make it’ in Michigan, no matter who they are or where they come from.”
Under LEO, the Office of Sixty by 30 has played a key role in developing historic initiatives that provide tuition-free pathways to postsecondary education for Michiganders. Futures for Frontliners, launched in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, provided frontline workers the opportunity to earn a skill certificate or associate degree at one of Michigan’s 28 public community colleges and GED classes to adults without a high school diploma or equivalency. The temporary program resulted in over 120,000 applicants, with 27,000 students enrolled at an education institution and over 4,200 participants completed their programs.
Building on the success of Futures for Frontliners, LEO joined the governor to launch Michigan Reconnect, a scholarship program for Michiganders 25 or older who already have a high school diploma or equivalency. Since the program’s launch in February 2021, over 123,000 Michiganders have been accepted, 27,000 have enrolled and at least 2,800 have already earned a degree or certificate.
The recently signed bipartisan fiscal year 2024 budget includes an additional $70 million investment to temporarily lower the Reconnect age from 25 to 21, expanding eligibility to another 350,000 people.
“Increasing education attainment is essential to ensure that Michiganders have access to high-paying, in-demand jobs now and in the future, and that our businesses have the talent needed to compete, grow and innovate,” said Susan Corbin, director of LEO. “Thankfully we have a governor and legislature who understand this and continue to prioritize opportunities that make Michigan more competitive for economic growth and help people realize their full potential.”
During the event, the governor shared more on the new Michigan Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement, and Potential (MiLEAP), which will focus on early learning and higher education, and improving long-term student outcomes, ensuring they can pursue a fulfilling career in Michigan.
A panel discussion with community and education leaders focused on increasing enrollment and how institutions can foster new strategies and collaborations to support student success.
“The value of postsecondary education is higher than it has ever been, and we continue to see doors opened through the attainment of certificates and degrees,” said Henry Ford College (HFC) President Russell Kavalhuna. “Education institutions are uniquely positioned to adopt strategies that ensure students can find success not only on campus, but far beyond. At Henry Ford College, we are committed to developing strategic partnerships with state, business, industry and community leaders to ensure that when our students graduate, they are ready to lead the way as educated, skilled workers.”
The event also featured a student panel and testimonies from recent graduates highlighting their experience from application to graduation.
“I started college when I was 18 to prepare for my dream career as a nurse, but this dream was delayed when I took a break from school to focus on raising my three children,” said Sarah Sparks, recent HFC graduate. “After years away, I knew it was time to go back to school and finish what I started. Thanks to the support of my family, my teachers and advisors at Henry Ford College and the state of Michigan for putting scholarships like Michigan Reconnect in place, I was able to overcome the barriers of returning to school, graduate and land my dream job as a nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.”
The rallying call from the summit was for higher education institutions and community partners to work in tandem with state government to ensure Michigan students have the supports needed to enroll, graduate with a degree or certificate and thrive in Michigan’s evolving workforce.