GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II and participants in the Michigan Reconnect program, Grand Rapids Community College officials, and business leaders held a roundtable in Grand Rapids Monday morning. 

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The talk will center on the effectiveness of the Michigan Reconnect program, and its potential to create more good-paying jobs across the state, and its future economic implications. 

Since the launch of the program in 2021, more than 100,000 Michigan residents have been accepted, with more than 18,000 students enrolling in community colleges.  The program seeks to grant free tuition at an applicant’s in-district community college to earn an associate degree or Pell-eligible skill certificate if one is 25 years old and older.  See the list of colleges to determine if an in-district college is appropriate for you.  

Several members of the Grand Rapids Community College were present to offer their suggestions for how the program has been running, and hopes for the future. 

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Newly appointed president of GRCC, Dr. Charles Lepper, offered some thoughts on the program. 

“I am tremendously grateful to you and Governor Whitmer for starting the MI Reconnect, something that is so exciting, that we’re so proud of,” Lepper said, “It’s wonderful to hear students stories and their success.”

According to Lepper, GRCC accounts for 9% of the total number of enrollees in the Reconnect program and described it as wildly successful. 

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GRCC Associate Dean of Students Success, Ann Isackson was present and shared her experience of working with students and state officials. 

“I am really pleased about the fact that several semesters later [after the initial implementation of the program], we have over 100 new students that have never been with GRCC before starting Reconnect this semester,” Isackson said. “I am also very appreciative of the fact that the state is always looking for ways to improve this program.” 

Gilchrist was also joined by Representative Carol Glanville (D) Walker, and Chair of the Higher Education Committee, and represents the area of Grand Rapids that GRCC is located. 

“I am really excited because my entire professional career is education, K-12 and Adult Higher Ed,” Glanville said, “I am thrilled to be a part of this, and to be able to lend my expertise.” 

Some areas of improvement that the roundtable identified were making it easier to get access to renewable Wrap Around Support grants, and possibly more funding than the $550 that is awarded to some students.  Additionally, making it easier for adults with many years of experience in the workforce to transfer that experience for classroom credits, and have some leniency from businesses for adults in the program that have to work full-time jobs and go to school.  Similarly, the two students present for the roundtable mentioned that they only came across the Reconnect program through Facebook, and recommended improvising marketing for the program.