New 'Michigan Reconnect' fund offers free tuition to any adults over 25 without a degree

Michigan is kicking off its largest effort ever to help its residents get more schooling, opening up a $30 million fund that will pay for a 2-year college degree or skills certification.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the Michigan Reconnect scholarship program, which will help finance costs for an associate degree or certification to Michigan residents 25 years or older that don't have one.

Estimates from the state say more than 4.1 million people could qualify from the program. 

Michigan Reconnect will pay tuition costs for adults to attend in-district community college to earn a degree or certification in a trade. People could also attend one of the state's private training schools with a $1,500 scholarship provided by the state.

"Michigan Reconnect will connect thousands of Michiganders to good-paying jobs and connect businesses with the talent they need to thrive in their communities," said Whitmer in a statement. "I’m proud of the hard work that has gone into creating this historic new opportunity and look forward to continuing bipartisan work with lawmakers toward our goal of ensuring 60% of Michiganders will have a postsecondary degree by 2030." 

The scholarships offered through Michigan Reconnect will be accepted at every Michigan community college. They're also available to adults currently enrolled. The program will pay the remaining tuition balance any other outstanding fees after financial aid has been applied.

(Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

"By helping workers get the training they need to thrive, businesses will have the much-needed skilled talent required to succeed," said Michigan Manufacturing Association President and CEO John Walsh. "Michigan Reconnect helps businesses across the state increase the size and quality of our workforce and serves as an incredible asset for economic mobility."  

To be eligible for the program, residents will need:

  • Be at least 25 years old when you apply
  • Have lived in Michigan for a year or more
  • Have a high school diploma
  • Have not yet completed a college degree

According to the Michigan Community College Association, only 41% of the state's residents that were of working age had an associate degree or higher. A fiscal analysis of those without a degree compared to those that do have a degree found residents that have graduated earn $10,000 more a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Whitmer spoke virtually and was flanked by both Republicans and Democrats when announcing the new program. 

RELATED: Michigan launches new plan offering free college to 625,000 essential workers

"Even if Michigan were able to keep every high school and college graduate, it wouldn't be enough to fill our state’s talent gap," Sen. Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth) said. "Our aim with Michigan Reconnect is to meet our state’s workforce need by encouraging and assisting residents to afford and achieve a college credential or advanced certificate. Now our state has a tool to reach out to adults wanting to pursue post-secondary education if they choose to." 

Last year during the COVID-19 pandemic, Whitmer announced a different program aimed at helping fund the education of essential workers that were employed as COVID-19 spread.

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