Michigan Governor Proposes Expanded Free Community College Program

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer proposed expanding the state's free community college program to cover tuition for all Michigan high school graduates, regardless of age.
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Published on February 29, 2024
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  • The proposed Community College Guarantee program would offer additional financial aid to students with higher needs.
  • This expansion would potentially benefit over 18,000 students and save them an average of $4,820 in tuition costs each year.
  • While Michigan is one of only nine states with few eligibility limits for free tuition, there have been efforts to make community college free for all U.S. citizens.

Michigan may soon expand free community college access to all Michigan high school graduates, regardless of age.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer proposed expanding the state's free college program in her 2025 budget proposal. Michigan currently offers free community college to residents who have lived in the state for at least one year and are at least 21 years old, but Whitmer's latest plan would open the program to even more potential college students.

The proposed Community College Guarantee program would cover remaining tuition costs after all other aid has been applied for Michigan high school graduates if they are enrolled in a community college in the state. Students can use the scholarship program to earn an associate degree or skilled certificate, according to Whitmer's budget proposal.

Community College Guarantee would offer an additional $1,000 to students with higher financial need.

The governor's office expects the program to aid over 18,000 students who would save approximately $4,820 in tuition each year.

Whitmer requested an additional $30 million for the state's Postsecondary Scholarship Fund to fund this expansion. That would bring the total investment in the fund to $330 million.

Michigan has made sizable strides toward college affordability since Whitmer took office in 2019. The state launched the Michigan Reconnect program in 2021, which offered free community college for most residents 25 years or older. It later expanded Michigan Reconnect to lower the age requirement to 21 temporarily but did not declare when this temporary provision would expire.

According to the Campaign for Free College Tuition, there are currently 32 states in the U.S. with a state-sponsored free college tuition program. Michigan is one of only nine states the organization describes as having a free tuition program with few eligibility limits.

Meanwhile, there have been some efforts to make community college free at the national level.

President Joe Biden campaigned on a platform to offer free community college to all U.S. citizens. He has offered a handful of free community college proposals during his tenure, but none have gained much traction in Congress thus far.

Democratic lawmakers proposed the America's College Promise Act in October. The proposal, among other things, would fund two years of tuition-free community college at public institutions.

The bill, however, has not made progress in either the Senate or the House of Representatives.