Michigan Reconnect gives free tuition to in-state adults

(Graphic by Jerry Meade)

The ability to earn a college degree can now be a practically finance-free endeavor for many individuals.

Michigan Reconnect is a program that allows all Michigan residents 25 years and older to receive free tuition in pursuit of an associates degree or program certificate if they have not already acquired one.

Launched by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Feb. 2, Michigan Reconnect is a part of the state’s 60 by 30 campaign to increase the number of working-age adults with a skills certificate or college degree from 45% today to 60% by 2030.

Scott Behrens, vice president of Enrollment and Student Success, said this program will target residents in the community who might not have qualified for the Futures for Frontliners program. Futures For Frontliners continues to allow free tuition to people who worked on the frontlines during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That program was incredibly successful at Monroe,” Behrens said.

“Monroe County in particular had more applications per capita than any county in Southeastern Michigan.”

Behrens said Michigan Reconnect is one of the most powerful program initiatives he has seen in all of education.

“It’s really all about students,” Behrens said. “How often is there an opportunity to get free education in this nation? And that’s what we have right now.”

Behrens said education is the number one predictor of economic development.

“I think they [the state] get that and they are investing in their citizens to enhance the future of economic development in Michigan,” he said.

Joe Verkennes, director of Marketing and Communications, said the college wants to get the word out about this program to as many eligible people as possible leading up to when enrollment for the 2021 Fall Semester opens.

“This is just so simplistic,” Behrens said. “The application is simplistic, and you get an immediate result, unlike the Futures for Frontliners Application process.”

The application can be found at https://missg.guarantorsolutions.com/StudentPortal/reconnect.

After submitting a Reconnect application, applicants must also apply to MCCC and fill out their FAFSA to qualify for the program.

Valerie Culler, director of Financial Aid, said the state of Michigan has structured the rules so that this program is “last dollar” after Pell Grant and other tuition and fee restricted scholarships.

Tuition and tech fees are covered through the program, while funds for textbooks and other supplies are not.

All associate degrees provided by the college and all Pell Grant-related skills certificates are included in Michigan Reconnect.

To those who are eligible but may not know what degree or certificate to pursue, Behrens said he encourages them to apply as soon as they can.

“Everybody’s different, and we want to make sure they choose something they’d be successful in, that they’d enjoy, and have the career that they’d ultimately want,” Behrens said.

He said the power of this program is beyond what many think is possible.

“This program has the power to change, not just the individual who returns back with education, but change their lineage forevermore,” Behrens said. “When someone is the first person in their family to get a college-level education, it changes their economic outlook and the possibility for their family for years to come.”

Behrens said education is the key to economic success, with this program benefiting the city, the county and the state.

“I really am excited to see a big return of our adult population,” Verkennes said. “I hope this provides the motivation to tap potential that they’ve dreamed about but have put off because they were doing ok and kind of moving along.”

Verkennes said the goal for education at MCCC is not only to provide a financially stable job for students in the future but also to give them a job they will ultimately be happy doing.

“I went into a career that was never gonna make me rich,” Verkennes said. “But I love what I do every day and that’s what we want to do for these folks.”