My GRCC Story: Ashley Venbennekom uses Michigan Reconnect to gain career skills while managing family and small business

Ashley Vanbennekom smiling.

Ashley Vanbennekom has advice for young parents dreaming of a college degree.

“Don’t be afraid to go get it — anytime, anywhere or in any season of your life,” said Vanbennekom, a 32-year-old mother of three pursuing an interior design degree at Grand Rapids Community College thanks to a Michigan Reconnect scholarship.

Tuition-free programs like Michigan Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners have been popular for West Michigan adult learners. During the Winter 2022 semester, 21% of GRCC students — 2,385 out of 11,383 –– were enrolled in the state scholarship programs, which cover the cost of in-district tuition.

Michigan Reconnect is the largest effort in state history to ensure that Michiganders who are 25 or older and don’t have a college degree have an opportunity to earn an associate degree or skills certificate with free or deeply discounted tuition.

Since its launch in February 2021, nearly 93,000 state residents have been accepted into the program. To date, 54 Reconnecters have graduated from GRCC.

Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners are among the tools the state is using to achieve Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “60 by 30 goal,” which aims to prepare Michiganders for in-demand jobs and bigger paychecks by increasing the number of adults with a postsecondary degree or credential to 60% by 2030.

Whitmer highlighted GRCC students in a Wednesday release.

“Our goal is to build a better Michigan where every Michigander is equipped with the education and skills they need to get a good-paying job, and the Michigan Reconnect students at Grand Rapids Community College are on their way to high-demand, high-wage careers,” she said.

According to recent employment projections, nearly 530,000 jobs in professional trades fields alone will be available in Michigan through 2028. It’s estimated that nearly half those jobs will require postsecondary education.

A growing number of older, nontraditional adult learners are heading to college classrooms – many for the first time. GRCC reported a 14% enrollment increase in students ages 30 and older, like Vanbennekom, compared to pre-pandemic enrollment levels.

“More Michiganders are earning, or within reach of earning, a college degree or skills certificate thanks to efforts like Michigan Reconnect,” said Susan Corbin, director of the state Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. “We are creating new paths for fulfilling careers for our workers and opportunities for our Michigan businesses to fill critical talent needs so they can continue to compete, grow and innovate.”

Vanbennekom decided to start a furniture refurbishing business after she and her husband, Matt, began renovating a historic home in Fulton Heights. She dreamed of getting an interior design degree but was unsure how they’d afford tuition while raising three children, ages 2, 7 and 8.

Reconnect, GRCC’s online courses and GRCC daycare for her 2-year-old son gave her the freedom to pursue that dream.

“I was amazed when I got a 4.0 and was on the President’s List my first semester at GRCC while juggling it all,” she said. “I work incredibly hard to balance it all.”

GRCC President Bill Pink said it’s the college’s mission to prepare people like Vanbennekom to attain their goals and contribute to the community.

“This is achieved by providing students with the skills and education that can lead to good careers and enriched lives,” Pink said. “We look forward to continued collaboration with our regional and state partners to provide pathways to success for our region’s students, workers and businesses.”

Vanbennekom said there are many nontraditional students like her pursuing their dreams at GRCC.

“When you really put your mind to something and you really want it, you can make it happen at any age,” she said.

Additional information about how the Michigan Reconnect program can help students start and restart their college education and change their life is at, and by emailing or calling (616) 234-3366.

This story was reported by Beth McKenna.

GRCC, MSU co-hosting 2022 International Transformative Learning Conference

The 2022 International Transformative Learning Conference is a virtual conference on April 6-9, 2022, co-hosted by Michigan State University and Grand Rapids Community College.

The 14th biennial conference will feature 92 concurrent presentation sessions in five session formats: Papers, Experientials, Roundtables, Symposia, and PechaKuchas.

Registration also includes on-demand access to recordings for all presentation and keynote sessions for up to 60 days following the conference, so you’ll be able to catch up at your convenience on any sessions you missed.

The organizing committee continues to work busily behind the scenes to organize a conference that highlights the amazing work that Transformative Learning scholars and practitioners have been developing during these uncertain times and stays true to our values of community and inclusion.

If you haven’t yet, please plan to join us in April as your presence and participation is deeply welcomed, valued and enriches the experience for everyone.

An overview of the philosophy of the conference is attached. More information on the conference can be found at the conference website –

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) will be launched on staff MyGRCC accounts starting Monday, March 28

MFA will help to ensure that GRCC data and user accounts are protected from possible hacks. 

When you sign into your MyGRCC account from off campus, through the VM or from a personal device using GRCC Wireless or Secure, you will be prompted to use MFA. A one-time passcode will be sent to your personal email on file. 

If you would prefer another MFA method, click on “Problems with this authentication option?” link. You will be able to choose one of the other methods of MFA that you set up during your initial registration process for the MyGRCC portal. 

Click the checkbox next to “Remember this device?” to suppress MFA for 14 days. This can be done on up to five different devices. 

Here are several knowledge base articles to assist you in this process including one that will show how you can change the default MFA delivery method to either phone, email or mobile authenticator:

What is Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)?

Signing Into the MyGRCC Portal with Multi-Factor Authentication

Changing Default Multi-Factor Delivery Method

Please reach out to the Support Desk with any questions.

Dress like a Raider: GRCC Athletics ‘yard sale’ makes team apparel available for students, fans

Raider hats and shirts.

Raiders fans can help the Grand Rapids Community College Athletic Department clear some room in its storage room and show their team spirit by purchasing team apparel and other items at a “yard sale” on Monday.

The sale is planned for noon to 3 p.m. on Monday, March 28 in the Gordon Hunsberger Arena in the Gerald R. Ford Fieldhouse.

The sale includes jerseys, backpacks, jackets, polo shirts and other items, and proceeds will be used to support the GRCC Athletic program. Most of the items are unused, but others have been worn in competition and practice by student-athletes of the past.

“We’ve had the opportunity to purchase updated uniforms and other apparel in recent years,” Athletic Director Lauren Ferullo said. “We know there are many Raider fans who would really enjoy wearing these. Rather than keeping them in storage, we want to share them with GRCC students and fans.”

GRCC In the News 03/23/2022

Grand Rapids Community College raises tuition by $1 for 2022-23 academic year

3/22/22 MLive

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Grand Rapids Community College officials approved a 0.9% tuition increase for the 2022-23 school year.

LG Energy Solution to build $1.7B battery production facility in Holland

3/22/22 Grand Rapids Business Journal

An advanced lithium-ion battery manufacturer is investing $1.7 billion to expand in the city of Holland in a move that will create 1,200 jobs.

… Grand Rapids Community College is providing $14.5 million in Michigan new jobs training, and Michigan Community Capital is providing a $1.7 million new market tax credit.

West Michigan will be home to state’s 2nd massive EV battery factory

3/22/22 Bridge Magazine

The state’s race to attract billions in new electric vehicle battery production leapt ahead on Tuesday as officials approved a round of incentives that will help fund a massive expansion of a West Michigan factory.

… Additional awards to the company so far total $35 million:

… $14.5 million in Michigan New Jobs Training through Grand Rapids Community College;

Millions worth of incentives approved for $1.7 billion Holland battery plant expansion

3/23/22 MLive

HOLLAND, MI — A state board has approved millions worth of incentives for a South Korean electric vehicle battery manufacturer that’s planning to expand its Holland plant, an estimated $1.7 billion investment that could create up to 1,200 new jobs.

… For example, West Michigan Works! is supporting the project with a Workforce Hiring and Training Plan valued at $5.2 million, and Grand Rapids Community College is assisting with $14.5 million in Michigan New Jobs Training funding, according to Lakeshore Advantage.