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GRCC President Pink says bipartisan state budget agreement will boost opportunities, make college more accessible

Sept. 23, 2021, GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Grand Rapids Community College leaders are applauding Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Legislature for a budget agreement providing additional resources for Futures for Frontliners and Michigan Reconnect programs to make a college education more accessible and help West Michigan’s recovery from the pandemic.

The budget 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 help provide support services to help students be successful and complete their credential.

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

“I applaud the Governor and the Legislature for this bipartisan plan recognizing the important role community colleges play in helping residents change their lives and boosting our economy,” GRCC President Bill Pink said.

“We are seeing the impact the Futures for Frontliners and Michigan Reconnect programs are having. 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.

“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.”

Gov. Whitmer called for increases in Futures for Frontliners and Michigan Reconnect during an August stop at GRCC’s Leslie 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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