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Lawmakers Look to Expand Support for Community College Students

The Michigan Reconnect program was set in motion last year, allowing students over the age of 25 who want to further their education and obtain their first associate degree or skilled trades certification.

“Governor Whitmer, when she took over, and this was prior to the pandemic but not to much before, created two programs; Future for Front Liners and reconnect. Reconnect offered free tuition, last dollar tuition, for folks 25 and above to get them back into the work force, to get them back in school,” said Dr. Don McMaster, president of Alpena Community College.

The Michigan Reconnect program is part of the 60 by 30 goal. Governor Whitmer’s plan to increase the number of adults that hold a post secondary degree or credential to 60 percent by 2030. “Michigan has a declining population. They have a lot of good jobs, particularly in the trades that are open, that employers and businesses booming but they cant find workers,” said McMaster. “In our case the demographic of students are depleting so it’s a struggle to find students.”

On Tuesday, May 24, house bills 6129 and 6130 would momentarily expand the Michigan Reconnect program to include residents over the age of 21. “The house of republicans have in their budget a considerable amount of dollars to expand the Reconnect program and to lower the age of eligibility from 25 to 21,” said Don McMaster.

The program would help address academic gaps caused by COVID–19.”What COVID did was accelerate a lot of trends that were already in there that we didn’t see exactly and it exacerbated problems that we already had,” said Dr.McMaster.

Negotiations for the state budget must be passed by Sept. 30.