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Gov Whitmer Highlights Impact of Tuition-free Programs in GR

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth (LEO) are celebrating the transformative impact the Michigan Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners programs have on the governor’s goal of making sure every Michigander has a path to a high wage job. These historic programs help make college degrees and skill certificates available and affordable for more residents. 

“Our goal is to build a Michigan where every Michigander is equipped with the education and skills they need to get a good-paying job and the Michigan Reconnect students at Grand Rapids Community College are on their way to high-demand, high-wage careers” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “Whether it’s a registered apprenticeship, an industry-recognized certification, a technical certificate, an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree or beyond, higher education or skills training opens so many doors. Bipartisan programs like Michigan Reconnect are putting us on track to achieve our ambitious but attainable goal to reach 60% of our workforce with a postsecondary credential by 2030. Let’s stay focused on empowering and uplifting our people.”

Michigan Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners are among the tools the state is using to achieve Governor Whitmer’s Sixty by 30 goal, which aims to prepare Michiganders for in-demand jobs and bigger paychecks by increasing the number of adults with a postsecondary degree or credential to 60% by 2030. In the past year alone, over 170,000 Michiganders applied for scholarships through Michigan Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners, two programs she created to put people on tuition-free paths to better-paying jobs. 

The Sixty by 30 goal seeks to build a better Michigan in three ways:

  • Close the skills gap that poses the single greatest threat to the success of our businesses and our state’s prosperity. Jobs requiring skilled employees today, as well as jobs on the horizon, demand greater education and training than ever before. Increasingly, the best jobs require more than a high school diploma.
  • Increase opportunity and Michiganders greater access to the education and skills that create opportunities for better jobs and bigger paychecks.
  • Make Michigan more competitive for inclusive economic growth.

To better showcase Michigan Reconnect’s impact across the state, LEO has launched an online map detailing application data searchable by county.

Studies show an education beyond high school opens the door to economic opportunity, financial security and social mobility, with average annual earnings of $7,500 more for those with a two-year degree compared with only a high school diploma.

According to a recent report of long-term employment projections from the state’s Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, nearly 530,000 jobs in high-demand, high-wage professional trades fields alone will be available in the state through 2028. It is estimated that nearly 50% of those jobs will require postsecondary education.

“Our Sixty by 30 efforts are working,” said LEO Director Susan Corbin. “More Michiganders are earning, or within reach of earning, a college degree or skills certificate thanks to efforts like Michigan Reconnect. We are creating new paths for fulfilling careers for our workers and opportunities for our Michigan businesses to fill critical talent needs so they can continue to compete, grow and innovate.”

Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) illustrates the impact tuition-free programs like Michigan Reconnect are having on residents in Grand Rapids and surrounding communities and how these programs are affecting the makeup of populations, certificates or degrees awarded and enrollment at the institution.  


Michigan Reconnect



% of Student Population Participating in Michigan Reconnect


10% (2022 Winter Semester)

No. of Participants Graduated With a Certificate or Degree



No. of Participants Enrolled for the First Time at Institution


120 (2022 Winter Semester)











Futures for Frontliners



% of Student Population Participating in Michigan Reconnect


12% (2022 Winter Semester)

No. of Participants Graduated With a Certificate or Degree



No. of Participants Enrolled for the First Time at Institution


3 (2022 Winter Semester)

GRCC also reported a 14% enrollment increase in students aged 30-years and older compared to pre-pandemic enrollment levels. 

“Our mission is to prepare individuals to attain their goals and contribute to the community,” said Grand Rapids Community College President Dr. Bill Pink. “This is achieved by providing students with the skills and education that can lead to good careers and enriched lives. We look forward to continued collaboration with our regional and state partners to provide pathways to success for our region’s students, workers and businesses.”

Students at Grand Rapids Community College have used the tuition-free programs to earn degrees or certificates in fields like accounting, business administration, health and exercise science, human services and nursing.  

Michigan Reconnect is the largest effort in state history to ensure that Michiganders who are 25 or older and do not have a college degree will have an opportunity to earn an associate degree or skills certificate with free or deeply discounted tuition. 

Since the program’s launch in February 2021, nearly 93,000 state residents have been accepted into the program. In its first two semesters, Summer and Fall 2021, nearly 13,000 scholarship participants enrolled in courses leading to a degree or skills certificate program.

Michigan Reconnect pays the cost of in-district tuition for eligible adults who want to pursue an associate degree or skills certificate at any of Michigan’s public community colleges, including its three tribal colleges.

The state’s network of Michigan Reconnect Navigators is actively working with nearly 15,000 Michigan Reconnect applicants to guide them on their path to a college degree or skills certificate, including applying for federal student aid, setting career goals, selecting a program of study, registering for classes and creating a graduation plan. 

The first program of its kind in the nation, Futures for Frontliners offered free in-district tuition to community college for Michiganders, with or without high school diplomas, who provided essential frontline services during COVID-19 Stay Home, Stay Safe orders between April and June 2020. While the application period for Futures for Frontliners closed in December 2020, more than 28,000 Frontliners initiated their participation in the scholarship program in 2021.