GRCC president: New state budget recognizes the importance of community colleges

The new proposed state budget provides additional resources to make a college education more accessible and help West Michigan’s recovery from the pandemic.

The $70 billion budget plan increases funding for Michigan Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners — programs covering the cost of in-district tuition for eligible residents — and also includes funding to provide support services to help students be successful and complete their credentials.

The budget deal, which Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says she’ll sign into law before the end of the month, also includes a one-time 1% increase for operations at universities and community colleges, with a one-time 4% increase to help keep tuition costs down. 

Grand Rapids Community College President Bill Pink says he applauds the governor and the Legislature for a bipartisan plan that recognizes the important role community colleges play in helping residents change their lives and boosting the economy.

Seeing the impact

“We are seeing the impact the Futures for Frontliners and Michigan Reconnect programs are having,” Pink says. “People of all ages in our community are starting their college pathway, or picking up where they left off — sometimes 10 or 15 years ago. These are opportunities to change their careers and help their families.”

He also cautions that continued financial support will be crucial to maintaining these programs that provide an affordable way for people to increase their skills and earning potential.

“While I also appreciate the one-time increase for operations in the budget, one-time funding makes it difficult to create sustainable student-supporting programs. I look forward to continuing this conversation with our lawmakers about the challenges and opportunities community colleges will face beyond this year,” he says. 

Whitmer called for increases in Futures for Frontliners and Michigan Reconnect during an August stop at GRCC’s Leslie E. Tassell M-TEC. More than 3,000 students are attending GRCC this fall through the two programs.

The budget agreement includes:
  • $55 million for the Michigan Reconnect program, covering in-district tuition for residents age 25 and older.
  • $25 million for the Futures for Frontliners program that covers in-district tuition for students who worked during the state’s COVID-19 shutdown.
  • $6 million for wraparound supports for Michigan Reconnect or Futures for Frontliners to remove barriers to degree completion.
The budget also provides funding for career-focused programs, aimed at helping residents gain in-demand skills for rewarding careers and helping local employers by growing a talented workforce. More than 10,560 people attended GRCC Workforce Training programs in the past year.
The agreement includes:
  • $40 million for the Going PRO program to expand employer-based training grants that result in industry-recognized credentials and certificates.
  • $8 million for pre-apprenticeship or apprenticeship training programs to expand Michigan’s talent pool in the construction and building trades. 
  • $1 million for Focus: HOPE to support workforce development, youth development, and community empowerment and advocacy programs.
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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.