While in Kent County, 46.9 percent of people 25 to 64 hold an associate degree or higher, across all of Michigan, only 41.6 percent of people 25 to 64 hold the same degree. Governor Gretchen Whitmer is working to increase these totals with the goal of making sure every Michigander has an affordable way to get a higher education and work for a higher wage job. The two programs the Governor and the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth (LEO) are using to achieve this goal are Futures for Frontliners and Michigan Reconnect. These two programs are the main avenues to achieve Governor Whitmer’s Sixty by 30 goal, which aims to prepare Michiganders for modern in-demand jobs, and higher wages, by increasing the number of adults with a postsecondary degree or credentials to 60 percent by 2030.
There are three main objectives of Sixty by 30. The first is to close the skills gap, where jobs today and in the near future demand skills that require more education and technical training than what a high school education provides. Second is to increase financial accessibility for Michiganders to the education and skills needed for higher paying jobs. The third is to make Michigan more competitive for inclusive economic growth. Futures for Frontliners and Michigan Reconnect are both working on all three of these objectives, with an emphasis on the first two.
Future for Frontliners allows frontline workers to finish high school if they have not, and attend community college tuition-free. Frontline workers are people who, for example, work at grocery stores and restaurants, provide waste management services, operate public transportation, and provide critical police or fire services. Michigan Reconnect has much broader criteria for admission: the only requirements are that a Michigan resident be 25 or older, and attend their respective in-district community college to earn an associate’s degree or Pell-eligible skill certificate.
Both programs are partnering with MI Bridges, Michigan Works Agencies, and various community colleges around the state to offer tuition-free education and as many supportive resources available to working adults as possible. MI Bridges allows people to apply for assistance programs and access more than 30,000 state and local services across the state. Local Michigan Works agencies can help connect people with career exploration and coaching, tuition assistance, training and many more services. To access a list of community colleges, Michigan.gov has a searchable database of the participating public community colleges in one or both programs. The site emphasizes the importance of attending an in-district community college in order to access the tuition-free programs.