State Reps. Ben Frederick and Sarah Anthony introduced a bipartisan plan to expand and enhance the Michigan Reconnect program to help address education gaps caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The representatives previously spearheaded the effort to create the Reconnect program in 2019 to provide scholarships to adult learners who return to school to earn their first associate degree or skilled trades certification. The plan would expand eligibility to more individuals and make grants available for short-term career training programs.
“Michiganders who return to school as adults have unique needs and prior life experiences that should be acknowledged by their institutions,” said Frederick (R-Owosso), who himself was an adult learner and first-generation college graduate. “The goal is to allow people to receive an employment-relevant credential with minimal or no debt, so they can successfully advance their careers.”
Previously open to adult learners 25 and older, House Bills 6129-30 temporarily expand the opportunity to people ages 21 to 24 to account for learning disruptions caused by the pandemic.
The bills also ensure community colleges participating in the program make the best use of participants’ prior life experience when granting credit and acceleration opportunities.
Under the plan, colleges with Michigan Reconnect students must adopt nationally recognized best practices for the adult learner population, including by offering competency-based courses and programs, awarding credit for prior learning, providing work-based learning opportunities, making holistic student support services available and offering stackable industry-recognized micro credentials within programs.
Community colleges would also be incentivized to accept and award credit for college-level credit examinations, such as the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) and DSST Credit-by-Exam Program, allowing students to pursue maximum acceleration options through their programs.
The Reconnect short-term training grants created under this plan would also allow adult learners new opportunities to participate in high quality career training programs. These programs, ranging in length from eight to 15 weeks, would allow people to attain industry-recognized credentials that are stackable, portable and shown to increase earnings by no less than 20 percent after completion.
“I’m extremely proud of the difference the MI Reconnect program has made in the lives of so many Michiganders, and I’m excited to build on its success,” said Anthony (D-Lansing). “Expanding the age limitations and taking steps to make education more accessible will help us meet the needs of learners who might have otherwise fell through the cracks as a result of the pandemic.”
Frederick, who chairs the House’s budget subcommittee on community colleges and higher education, dedicated $155 million in federal COVID relief funding for the expansion of Reconnect in the House’s budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
House Bills 6129-30 will be referred to the House Appropriations Committee for consideration.