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Dive Brief:

  • Michigan’s free community college program will temporarily lower its age requirement from 25 to 21, opening eligibility to 350,000 more residents.
  • The Michigan Reconnect program, developed by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2021, offers tuition-free community college for adults with no postsecondary credentials. In her FY24 budget request, Whitmer had called for the lowering of the program’s age eligibility, requesting $140 million in one-time funding to do so.
  • The state’s Democratic-controlled legislature allocated $70 million for the program’s temporary expansion in the $81.7 billion FY2024 budget passed in June.

Dive Insight:

Michigan Reconnect has accepted over 123,000 residents since launching in February 2021, according to the state’s Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. About 27,000 enrolled in college, and at least 2,800 have earned a degree or certificate to date.

Whitmer is expected to sign the state budget by the end of September.

“This will be a game-changer in creating a tuition-free pathway to an associate degree at any one of Michigan’s 31 community and tribal colleges,” said Beverly Walker-Griffea, president of Mott Community College and chair of the Michigan Community College Association board. 

The Michigan Reconnect program is one of several state-driven efforts to provide free associate degree programs.

The Maine Legislature recently announced students who graduate from high school in 2024 and 2025 will be eligible for two years of free community college tuition.

The state launched the program in April 2022 for high schoolers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic — those who graduated from 2020 to 2023. About 6,400 enrolled in the program in its first year, according to the Maine Community College System.

Lawmakers began the program with a one-time investment of $20 million. To expand it, the upcoming budget allocates an additional $15 million.