Getting a fresh restart

By David Murray

State tuition-free programs bring people back to college

More older students are starting or restarting their education at Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC), with enrollment for ages 30 and older 14% above pre-pandemic levels, as adult learners take advantage of state tuition-free programs.

Enrollment for all students this semester is 1.1% above the Winter 2021 semester, with 11,442 people enrolled in credit-seeking programs. The growth is strongest among students ages 30 and older, up 22% from the Winter 2021 semester and 14% above the pre-pandemic Winter 2019 semester.

People enrolled in the state’s Michigan Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners programs account for nearly a quarter of the students enrolled at GRCC this semester.

“GRCC has always been the most affordable choice for a quality education for students of all ages,” said Tina Hoxie, associate provost and dean of student affairs. “Michigan Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners remove the financial hurdles, and GRCC’s ability to schedule classes around home and work responsibilities create fantastic opportunities to start or complete an education that can take your life in a new direction.”

About 60% of GRCC’s Winter 2022 classes include an online element, and enrollment is still open for seven-week classes that begin in early March. Students also can enroll in career-focused certificate programs, which start at points throughout the year.

Michigan Reconnect provides free in-district tuition for students ages 25 and older who don’t already have a college degree. Futures for Frontliners provided the benefit to Michiganders who worked frontline jobs in essential industries during the state’s COVID-19 shutdown.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said the programs are part of her “Sixty by 30” goal of having 60% of Michiganders obtaining a degree or career-focused credential by 2030.

As of August 2021, nearly 80,000 have been accepted to the Michigan Reconnect program. Futures for Frontliners had another 85,000 accepted applicants with more than 15,000 enrolled. Since Gov. Whitmer announced the Sixty by 30 goal, the percentage of working-age adults with a certificate, associate degree or higher has increased from 45% to 49%. 

This article was originally posted here.

David Murray

is director of communications at Grand Rapids Community College in Michigan.