State program aims to fill void of skilled workers by offering free tuition for community colleges

Posted at 11:21 PM, Mar 15, 2021

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — A new program is aiming to help more Michiganders get a post secondary education by offering free tuition.

It's called Michigan Reconnect, and in the six weeks since launch, they're already seeing some big interest.

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There are an estimated 4.1 million Michiganders who qualify for the Michigan Reconnect scholarship, and that includes around one million people from West and Central Michigan.

Since the program launched, 8,000 of them have already signed up.

"I know that my future, and the future for my son and daughter relies on me getting a college degree," said Victoria Ramon-Fox, a Michigan Reconnect student.

Victoria Ramon-Fox is a 25-year-old, single mother who will be attending Kellog Community College in Battle Creek starting this summer through Michigan Reconnect.

"Up until now it has been impossible for me to get a degree because of two things which are time and money," said Ramon-Fox.

"When you are working hard, if you are working more than one job, supporting a family, are a single parent, it is difficult to take that first step. To really put yourself first and to remove that barrier of tuition, I think absolutely makes it much, much easier," said Susan Corbin, the acting director for the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity.

Many Michiganders face the same issue with only 38% of residents having a post secondary degree.

"Reconnect will not only help our residents gain new skills. It will also help our state and businesses meet the growing demand for highly trained and educated workers," said Senator Sean McCann of the 20th State Senate District for Michigan.

The state legislature passed $30 million of state funding for the 2021 fiscal year for this program.

In addition to providing an opportunity for Michigan residents, the program will also help businesses who have had a hard time finding qualified skilled workers.

"By giving people in Michigan this opportunity, we know that it will not only improve their situation significantly, but it will also help us be competitive, help us fill those jobs that require additional skills, that quite frankly require an associates degree or a skill certificate," said Corbin.

To qualify you must be 25 or older, live in Michigan and have never received a degree. For more information or to apply, click here.