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Whitmer Announces Michigan Reconnect Milestone: Over 100,000 Applicants Accepted into Program


August 3, 2022



Gov. Whitmer Announces Michigan Reconnect Milestone:

Over 100,000 Applicants Accepted into Program

Bipartisan effort is putting more working-age adults on tuition-free path to high-demand, high-wage careers

LANSING, Mich. – Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced that as of late July, more than 100,000 Michiganders are on their way to a tuition-free degree or skills certificate through the Michigan Reconnect program.

This news marks a major milestone in the state’s efforts to achieve the governor’s Sixty by 30 goal, which aims to increase the number of adults in the state with a postsecondary degree or credential to 60% by 2030. Since the announcement of the Sixty by 30 goal, the percentage of working-age adults with a college degree or certificate has increased from 45% to 49%.

“Michigan Reconnect is putting hardworking Michiganders on a tuition-free path to a brighter future,” said Governor Whitmer. “This bipartisan program is a game-changer not only for the people enrolled in the program, but also for their families, small businesses, and the state of Michigan. I am so proud of all 100,000 and counting Reconnect applicants. They have taken an important step to chase their dreams, learn new skills, and land a good-paying job to support themselves and their families. Because of their grit and determination, we can keep growing Michigan’s economy, supporting and attracting hardworking people, and powering small businesses in every region of our great state.”

Created with overwhelming bipartisan support, the program is the largest effort in state history to ensure that Michiganders who are 25 or older and do not have a college degree have an opportunity to earn an associate degree or certificate with free or deeply discounted tuition. Since its launch in February 2021, approximately 18,000 participants have returned to school to finish their degree or enrolled for the first time. Over 500 have already graduated with an associate degree or skills certificate. 

“More Michiganders are within reach of a college degree or skills certificate thanks to efforts like Michigan Reconnect,” Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity Director Susan Corbin said. “We are creating new opportunities for our workers to land high-paying jobs in fulfilling careers and for our Michigan businesses to fill critical talent needs so they can continue to compete, grow and innovate.”

Paving Pathways for Opportunity

After facing significant challenges throughout her life, including time in the foster care system and living on her own while trying to graduate from high school, Shelby Essenmacher always thought that obtaining a college education and a fulfilling career with a good paycheck were out of her reach.

That is, until the native Detroiter applied for the Michigan Reconnect scholarship program. 

Essenmacher, 31, is taking advantage of the program to pursue an Associate of Applied Science in Nursing degree at Wayne County Community College District.

“This has been a life changer,” Essenmacher said. “I can now go after my dream of becoming a nurse without worrying about the cost of tuition, which has always been a major barrier preventing me from going back to school. Reconnect has cleared a pathway for me to achieve my education and career goals.” 

Governor Whitmer and her administration have worked with the Legislature to assemble a network of people and resources to provide Reconnect students the critical support they need to successfully enroll in classes and complete their degree or certificate program.

Last month, the governor announced a $6 million bipartisan investment to help enrollees overcome other major barriers, including the cost of books, child care, food, internet access and transportation.

Grants will be available through Michigan community colleges, including its three tribal colleges, for Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners students, allowing up to $550 per academic year to be distributed directly to eligible students who have completed at least one semester with either scholarship program.

Michigan Reconnect Navigators are another available resource to help students succeed with the steps leading up to enrollment. Navigators are available to help applicants complete admissions and financial aid requirements, set career goals, identify educational opportunities and create a plan to graduate. Navigators also connect students to additional programs and assistance offered by their community college and local partners to remove barriers to education.

“Making the decision to go back to school, especially when you are already balancing adult responsibilities like a job or a family, is empowering and inspiring—and it can be daunting,” said Sarah Szurpicki, LEO’s Office of Sixty by 30 director. “That’s why we want everyone considering the Michigan Reconnect scholarship program to know there is support along the way, and the Navigators can help them find solutions to anything that would stop or slow them down.”

About Michigan Reconnect

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. Eligible residents can attend community college tuition-free at a community college where they are considered in-district. For those who are not considered in-district by a community college, Michigan Reconnect will still cover up to the in-district portion of tuition.

To be eligible for Michigan Reconnect, a person must: 

  • 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 a college degree (associate or bachelor’s)  

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