Success Story: Younger adults now eligible as state seeks a better-educated workforce

October 4, 2023

NMC CIT student David Hipolito and Culinary student Hannah RamsbyReconnect students David Hipolito, Computer Information Technology, and Hannah Ramsby, Culinary

This week, Michiganders ages 21–24 who don’t already have a college degree got a limited time opportunity to increase their lifetime earning power at potentially no cost to them.

Michigan Reconnect logoFor just over a year, Michigan Reconnect, which began offering free in-district tuition to adults 25 and older without a degree in 2021, is being extended to 21- to 24-year-olds. The only other eligibility requirements are a minimum of one year’s residency in Michigan, and a high school diploma or equivalent. The application deadline is Nov. 15, 2024 and students must start classes by the fall 2024 semester.

NMC estimates between 400–450 current students will be eligible, and the expansion could also draw in new students.

“NMC is so excited that the opportunity Michigan Reconnect presents is now available to younger adults,” said NMC President Nick Nissley. “We know from decades of data that education beyond high school is the surest way people can improve their future incomes. Michigan Reconnect now makes that education much more affordable for many more people.”

A 2021 study by Traverse Connect, the region’s economic development agency, showed that the largest chunk of northwest Michigan’s jobs, 43 percent, require more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree. 2021 Georgetown University research shows that over an earning lifetime, associate degree graduates earn an average of $400,000 more than high school or GED graduates.

At NMC, Grand Traverse County residents are considered in-district. Those who live elsewhere still receive significant discounts, paying only the difference between the in district and out of district rates. Other aid can also offset some of those costs.

This fall, NMC saw a 20 percent jump in Reconnector enrollment by the original 25+ population. Some 278 students are receiving the Reconnect scholarship, with an average award of $1,561. Nearly 80 percent of those students have tuition and fees covered in full between Reconnect and Pell grants.

Students have used Reconnect to enroll in virtually all of NMC’s 60 programs.

David Hipolito, 25, is enrolled in Computer Information Technology. Many of the courses he takes in the CIT program are online and he appreciates that format because it allows him to balance school and a full-time job. Hipolito also endorses NMC’s instructors, substantial student support services, and campus vibe. “NMC is a small community; you feel like you’re at home,” he said.

Hannah Ramsby, 28, is enrolled in Culinary Arts. Reconnect is a huge relief because it means she doesn’t have to take out loans. She encourages others to take advantage of it: “I often struggle asking for help. The money is there to help. I love that it is helping those who may think that they’re too old to go to school or don’t deserve it.”

The Reconnect expansion to 21–24 is funded by a $70 million appropriation from the Michigan Legislature.

In 2019, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer established Michigan’s 60 by 30 goal of having 60 percent of adults have a college degree or skills certificate by 2030. It’s now 50.5 percent.

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