In her first State of the State address, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called for a statewide postsecondary attainment goal of 60% – an objective much in line with a similar target in West Michigan.
Our region is showing progress toward our goal that 64% of adults ages 25-64 will have education beyond a high school diploma or General Education Diploma (GED) by the year 2025. Two of the promising vehicles that Governor Whitmer is proposing to help Michigan meet this goal are the MI Opportunity Scholarship and the Michigan Reconnect Program.
Increasing education on two fronts
The MI Opportunity Scholarship is for recent high school graduates and offers a last-dollar tuition assistance to a community college or four-year university.
The Michigan Reconnect Program is for adults 25+ who are seeking employment in an in-demand career field, have little to no college, and are pursuing a certificate or degree. Like MI Opportunity, Reconnect provides a last-dollar tuition assistance to enroll at a community college.
Bipartisan and bicameral bills have been introduced for these initiatives. Successful implementation of both is expected to increase the size and quality of the workforce in Michigan. This would be an incredible asset for economic mobility and for finding talented applicants.
Proposals worth supporting
Post-secondary attainment is shown to produce higher wages for individuals and families. Families that fall at or below the United Way’s ALICE threshold struggle to maintain day-to-day finances. Increasing the education of ALICE individuals or households would enable them to increase their economic mobility. Increasing the skills of West Michigan’s talent pool would expand the supply of skilled and highly qualified talent for companies.
Talent 2025 is part of a West Michigan coalition that supports the MI Opportunity and Reconnect Scholarship programs. As a member of this community, we support these proposals as a “pathway forward to ensure Michiganders can obtain viable degrees, certifications, and, ultimately, sustainable and fulfilling careers.”
Input from businesses
Business community feedback on the initiatives focuses on the following:
·Accountability: Success metrics that track student progress and achievement – such as enrollment, persistence, and graduation rates – should be part of an ongoing data-driven accountability system for institutions receiving public resources.
·Student Support: Institutions must adopt a student support model based on researched best practices. Supports such as mentoring, academic advising, and career counseling are integral to high program completion rates.
·Student Ownership: To demonstrate ownership of their educational opportunity, students must meet enrollment requirements, complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), seek additional scholarship or funding opportunities, and maintain a satisfactory GPA.
·Economic Alignment: These talent initiatives should be built as complements to the successful GoingPRO Talent Fund. To further ensure alignment, higher educational institutions should maintain meaningful relationships with the business community, further enabling students to have access to career exploration and data related to labor market demand.
·Tuition Cap Requirements: Institutions should abide by tuition restraints on annual increases.
·Maintain Business Climate Competitiveness: Funding for these initiatives should not come from a business tax increase.
Cross-sector collaboration will be critical to the support of MI Opportunity Scholarship and Michigan Reconnect. And successful implementation of the Governor’s talent agenda will benefit community members, families, and businesses alike.