New state scholarship pays for community college education

Michigan is launching the state’s biggest effort ever to help its residents get more schooling, opening up a $30 million fund that will pay for a two-year college degree or skills certification.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer unveiled the Michigan Reconnect scholarship program on Feb. 2 as a way to help finance costs for an associate degree or certification to Michigan residents ages 25 and older who don't have one.

More than 4 million people could qualify from the program, officials say. Applications are now available at

Pays tuition costs

The state scholarship covers the cost of tuition for eligible Grand Rapids Community College students living within the boundaries of the Kent Intermediate School District. Others would pay the difference between the resident and non-resident rate tuition, which offers substantial savings.

“Many students and others in our community are experiencing financial difficulties during the pandemic. Reconnect will remove tuition as a financial challenge or an obstacle to getting a quality GRCC education,” President Bill Pink says. 

“We are committed to other supports to help students take advantage of this extraordinary opportunity, from academic assistance to schedules accommodating home and work responsibilities. We are a partner in our students’ success. No one should feel they are taking these steps alone.” 

Pink says the state scholarship is ideal for people who needed to put their education on hold, or who were unable to start. An associate degree or career-focused certificate can help students move ahead in their work or gain new jobs. 

A stronger West Michigan 

The program is part of Whitmer’s goal of having 60% of working-age Michiganders earning a college degree or certificate by 2030.

It’s a last-dollar scholarship, meaning applicants must also complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine their federal Pell grant eligibility. Financial aid experts can help with questions at 616-234-4030.

The scholarship is for people age 25 and older who have not previously earned a college degree. Applicants must have lived in the state for a year or more, have a high school diploma or GED, and not be in default on a federal student loan. Students currently enrolled are eligible.  

Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss believes the Michigan Reconnect program can make Grand Rapids and West Michigan stronger as a whole.

“The Reconnect program provides a valuable pathway at GRCC for individuals in our community and is an incredible opportunity for economic mobility as well as filling the skills gap,” Bliss says.

Educational attainment of residents is a key measurement of a region’s economic health, and one that Lakeshore Advantage works to improve, according to Jennifer Owens, president of the economic development organization that serves Ottawa and Allegan counties. 

“State initiatives such as Futures for Frontliners, and now Michigan Reconnect, increase access and affordability to higher education. Our community colleges have been great champions in reducing barriers to achieve skill and educational advancement for those who seek it in our region," Owens says.

Information sessions

GRCC has created personalized ways to connect with people interested in the Reconnect program, with specialists available via email at, by phone at 616-234-3366, and by text at 616-504-6178. Additional information is available at

The college also has scheduled Information sessions to learn about how to take advantage of the program and enroll in GRCC.
English-language sessions are planned for:
  • Friday, Feb. 5, at noon.
  • Tuesday, Feb. 16, at 9 a.m.
  • Monday, March 8, at 6 p.m.
Spanish-language sessions are planned for:
  • Thursday, Feb. 11, at noon.
  • Tuesday, March 2 at 9 a.m.
  • Wednesday, March 24 at 6 p.m.
GRCC offers affordable classes on weekdays, evenings, Saturdays, and online at locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties.

Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.

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