Grand Rapids Community College President Charles Lepper said the Michigan Reconnect program has provided access and opportunities for students across West Michigan, and encourages lawmakers to thoughtfully consider Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s call to expand the program.
Whitmer in her State of the State Address on Wednesday called for expanding the Michigan Reconnect program to include residents age 21 and older. The program, now for residents ages 25 and older, covers the cost of in-district tuition, helping remove financial obstacles for residents looking to start or restart their education.
“Reconnect has already helped more than 1,000 students at GRCC, and we find them on our campus gaining a quality education and in-demand career skills,” Lepper said. “Our mission as an open access college is to serve as many people in our community as possible. Our entire region grows stronger when more people have access to a life-changing education. We appreciate that our lawmakers have supported Reconnect in the past, and we encourage thoughtful consideration of this proposal in the months to come.”
Dr. Lepper on Monday heard about the successes of the Reconnect program from students Andre Broussard and Jodi Holland on Monday at a roundtable hosted by Lt. Governor Garland Gilchrist II at GRCC’s Wisner-Bottrall Applied Technology Center.
Reconnect, launched in Feb. 2021, is aimed at students 25 and older who have not yet earned a degree. Frontliners was available in 2020 for residents who worked in essential fields during the state’s COVID-19 shutdown.
The two are part of Gov. Whitmer’s Sixth by 30 goal, hoping to have at least 60 percent of the state’s adults have a college degree or career certificate by 2030.
Lawmakers last year approved an additional $6 million to help pay for other expenses, such as daycare or transportation.
Andre Broussard said he used the Reconnect program to enroll in GRCC’s Computer Support Job Training program. He recently was awarded the first-ever MTEC Leadership Award, which recognizes a student who has gone above and beyond expectation.
Jodi Holland is a first-generation college student, who came to GRCC at age 58 to gain skills to follow her dreams of being a baker – and also to inspire her grandchildren.
As of September, 9.5 percent of all state Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners students were at GRCC.
Of the winter semester that started this month, 9, 2,584 students were accepted to GRCC through Reconnect, and 1,141 are enrolled for the winter semester. Others can start in the summer or in the fall.
About half of the enrolled Reconnect students — 556 – are taking classes for the first time. And 464 students are returning after more than two years away to complete their education.