Michigan Senate Democrats proudly commemorate the three-year milestone of the Michigan Reconnect program, applauding its progress and expansion. 

 As the Michigan Reconnect program marks its third anniversary, Michigan Senate Democrats proudly reflect on the strides and achievements of this scholarship program. With over 150,000 Michiganders benefiting from tuition-free pathways to degrees or skills certificates, the program has significantly bolstered opportunities for individuals to pursue fulfilling careers and enjoy increased earning potential.

In a state where 75% of jobs require education beyond high school, Michigan is facing a significant challenge: Currently, only 49.1% of the state’s working-age population possesses a credential higher than a high school degree. This alarming disparity has resulted in a shortage of skilled workers to meet the demands of the MI New Economy’s “Sixty by 30” goal, aimed at boosting incomes and improving long-term outcomes for working families.

Recognizing the urgent need to bridge the educational gap, the Michigan Reconnect program has offered a promising solution — the opportunity to pursue an associate degree or a Pell-eligible skills certificate at in-district community colleges without the burden of tuition fees. 

In a 2022 House Appropriations Committee meeting, Senator Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing), then a State Representative, presents testimony on her legislation that would expand and enhance the Michigan Reconnect program.

Launched in February 2021 under the leadership of then-Representative Sarah Anthony, Michigan Reconnect represents the largest effort in the state’s history to address the educational needs of over 4.1 million Michiganders. The program has already garnered significant interest, with over 122,000 applicants since its inception.

Last year, Sen. Mary Cavanagh (D-Redford Township) joined forces with Sen. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) to introduce Senate Bills 406 and 407, aimed at expanding the Michigan Reconnect Program. These bills received widespread support, with numerous Senate Democrats signing on as co-sponsors. The impact of their efforts is evident in the historic state budget passed in June.

Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) and Sen. Darrin Camilleri (D-Trenton) join Michigan House members as Governor Gretchen Whitmer signs a historic budget that invests in Michigan students throughout their entire academic career — from PreK to college.

In the 2024 state budget — which took effect on Oct. 1, 2023 — $70 million was allocated for the expansion of the Michigan Reconnect program to now include eligible Michiganders 21 or older — previously having only included those 25 or older. This change allows younger individuals to benefit from the program’s tuition-free associate degree and skills certificate opportunities. By increasing access to education, Senate Democrats are taking proactive steps to equip Michigan’s younger population with the necessary skills to fill high-skilled jobs and contribute to the state’s economic growth.

“Michigan Reconnect has already connected thousands of Michiganders with tuition-free higher education and skills training,” said Sen. Anthony. “As we continue to attract new investment in our state, expanding Michigan Reconnect and investing in our workers is critical in maintaining our positive economic trajectory.” 

In addition to the $70 million expansion, the budget for the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) includes an additional $10.2 million to cover the increased costs of the Reconnect Program. Sen. Cavanagh played a crucial role as chair of the subcommittee responsible for the LEO budget, ensuring adequate resources for the program’s success.

“Michigan Reconnect has proven to be a critical component of our statewide education and workforce development goals,” said Sen. Cavanagh. “By expanding the program, this legislation affords even more Michiganders the opportunity to a quality education, setting our residents and Michigan as a whole on the path to a stronger economic future.”

To further enhance the Reconnect program, an additional $5 million was allocated for the Michigan Reconnect Entry Point Program. Under this program, community colleges partner with county governments to apply for grants through the Office of Sixty by 30. These grants will help engage applicants who have been approved for Reconnect funding but have not yet enrolled in an eligible program. Sen. Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo) chaired the subcommittee responsible for the budget of community colleges. 

Senator Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo), Majority Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, works with members to craft the 2024 state budget which includes critical funding for the Michigan Reconnect program.

“Michigan Reconnect has transformed the dream of going to college, degree completion or advanced skills certification into reality for over 150,000 of our fellow citizens,” said Sen. McCann. “I was proud to support the creation of this program three years ago, to support its limited-time expansion this past year and I’m proud to see it celebrate its third anniversary with continued strength.”

Michigan Senate Democrats’ commitment to education and workforce development remains strong, thanks to the tireless efforts of Sens. Anthony, Cavanagh, McCann and their Democratic colleagues. By expanding the Michigan Reconnect program and increasing eligibility to include younger Michiganders, the state is taking significant strides toward achieving its goals of a skilled and prosperous workforce and a brighter future for working families. 

Read more from the Michigan Senate Democrats at SenateDems.com/press.