Michigan Reconnect effort yields results at GRCC

Program offers free community college education for participants.

(As seen on WZZM TV 13) Two years after Michigan Reconnect was launched, Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) is seeing the impact it is having on its students.

The financial aid program offers tuition-free community college education to in-district Michigan residents 25 years or older, so they can complete their first associate degree or a Pell-eligible skill certificate program.

The goal of Michigan Reconnect, in conjunction with a similar program called Futures for Frontliners, is for at least 60% of the state’s adults to have a college degree or career certificate by 2030.

Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II said during his visit to GRCC in January that over the last two years, almost 50% of Michigan adults have earned a post-high school degree, certification or credential.

GRCC is helping to make that goal a reality.

Between the summer 2021 and fall 2022 semesters, there have been 2,509 Reconnect-eligible students enrolled at GRCC, of which, 16% have graduated with either a degree or certificate as of the end of the fall 2022 semester. Seven percent have earned an associate degree and 9% have earned a certificate.

Three GRCC students who have and are benefiting from the program are Cory Stout, Jodi Holland and Shamarri Key.

After working in the tool and die industry for several years, Stout enrolled in GRCC’s 18-week Job Training Welding program when his interest in the construction industry grew, and he graduated in February.

Holland, 59, was highlighted during Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s 2022 State of the State Address as a Michigan Reconnect recipient. She became the first of her eight siblings to attend college when she enrolled at GRCC during summer 2021 to earn an associate degree in culinary arts and a baking and pastry arts certificate.

“I’m so lucky not to be racking up a bunch of student loans at my age,” Holland said. “I’ve paid for a few books, but that’s it. Reconnect has taken care of everything else.”

Similar to Holland, Key is pursuing a degree in culinary arts. He first enrolled in GRCC after he graduated from high school in 2013; however, he was unable to finish because he had to work.

Key later returned to GRCC in August 2021, repaying a balance from his first time at school using the college’s Debt Forgiveness Program. He qualified for the Michigan Reconnect program in April 2022.

“The Reconnect program is a door-opener for people who have that financial barrier in front of them and think they don’t want to go to school if they have to pay it all themselves,” Key said.

Once he earns his degree, Key said he plans to become a personal chef, own a food truck, cater, teach cooking classes and create cooking video tutorials.

“We have just shy of 200,000 Michiganders who are participating in Michigan Reconnect, who have either already completed their community college education or on their way to complete that through Michigan Reconnect or through the Futures for Frontliners program,” Gilchrist said. “That is (for) people who were working on the frontlines during the pandemic. We still believe that there is still more to be done. There are more students that we can meet by expanding this program.”

No posts to display