Michigan to Expand Free College Program to Students 21, Older

The proposed change would lower the age to participate in Michigan Reconnect from 25 to 21.
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Published on July 14, 2023
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  • The Michigan Legislature passed a budget that would lower the age to qualify for Michigan Reconnect.
  • Michigan's budget proposal would also invest $70 million into the program.
  • Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to sign the budget into law.

Students ages 21-24 will soon be able to take advantage of Michigan's free community college program.

The state Legislature recently passed a budget proposal that would temporarily lower the age to take advantage of the state's Michigan Reconnect program from age 25 to 21. The move is expected to make a tuition-free associate degree or skills training available to 350,000 Michigan residents, according to a statement from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Michigan Reconnect, launched in 2021, waives tuition for Michigan residents pursuing an associate degree or certification from one of the state's community colleges.

The program, however, only applies to those who don't already have an associate or bachelor's degree.

Currently, Michigan Reconnect is solely for those 25 years old and older. The state's proposed 2023-24 budget includes an additional $70 million for the program to temporarily lower that age requirement to 21 to accommodate those who had their education disrupted by COVID-19 by not having previously earned an associate or bachelor's degree, according to the omnibus bill.

Whitmer voiced support for the budget bill and is expected to sign it into law.

The age expansion is temporary, according to the budget. However, the proposal's text does not say how long the age requirement will be 21 instead of 25.

Michigan legislators introduced a bill last year that would have expanded the program to those aged 21. That bill said students would need to join Michigan Reconnect within three years of the bill becoming law. After that, the age requirement would again increase to 25.

Michigan community colleges are proud to play a critical role in the state's talent development strategy, Beverly Walker-Griffea, chair of the Michigan Community College Association board, said in a statement. We are particularly thrilled about dedicated funding to lower the eligibility age for Michigan Reconnect from 25 to 21. 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.

The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) applauded the state's investments in higher education.

These investments build on major expansions in state financial aid over the past several years, Onjila Odeneal, TICAS senior director of policy and advocacy in Michigan, said in a statement. They will work collectively to break down access and persistent barriers that have prevented thousands of students, particularly those from low-income backgrounds, from considering, pursuing, and completing higher education in recent years.

Beyond expanding Michigan Reconnect, the state's budget also:

  • Increases outgoing funding to Michigan's public institutions by 5%
  • Designates $37.8 million for student success, completion, and basic needs resources
  • Pledges $10 million to boost Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion
  • Sets aside $60 million to bolster the Michigan Achievement Scholarship, as well as the Reconnect program