The latest figures from the Michigan Reconnect program show that nearly 72,000 people have applied for benefits under the program. Michigan Reconnect provides community college tuition to Michigan residents aged 25 and up who do not have a college degree. Washtenaw County has produced more than 2,100 applicants to the program. Nearby counties, like Livingston and Lenawee have fielded nearly 1,300 applicants combined. Nearly 19,000 people have applied to the program in Wayne County.
Applicants can choose which community college they want to attend, but the program will pay only in-district tuition. Students who do not qualify for in-district tuition must make up the difference on their own. If 2,100 program applicants enrolled at WCC (at the current in-district tuition rate) the program would generate nearly $13.4M in tuition and fees.
Michigan Reconnect is a “last dollar” program. To qualify, prospective students must request and use all available federal grants. Michigan Reconnect will pay the remainder. Many students who apply for the program are eligible for Pell grants. (Pell grants are as old as WCC itself.) The US Department of Education will do most of the heavy lifting for this program.
In other words, Michigan Reconnect isn’t magic. Providing “free community college” is something WCC could have been doing all along for low-income students. And it could still do this without any assistance from Michigan Reconnect.
Michigan Reconnect raises questions about WCC Administration’s priorities
So, this raises a few questions. If there are more than 2,100 would-be students in Washtenaw County alone, why was the WCC Administration making no effort to locate and recruit these students prior to the introduction of Michigan Reconnect? (Is enrollment not important?)
Second, why can the WCC Administrators draft elaborate plans to build a hotel, a convention center, and “retail outlots” in the WCC parking lots, but they can’t fathom a way to bring Pell-eligible students to WCC?
Is this “master plan” an admission on their part that they have no idea how to increase enrollment?
Reconnect Michigan and Futures for Frontliners have demonstrated that it is relatively easy to find prospective community college students. They’re out there, and apparently in large numbers. What stands between them and enrolling is money. The WCC Administration knows how to access federal financial aid for these students, but for some reason, prefers to fantasize about all the hidden revenue in the College parking lots just waiting to be discovered.
The people of Washtenaw County generate significant tax revenues to pay for a phalanx of WCC administrators, who between them, apparently cannot figure out how to recruit students effectively. Educating people is the mission of the College. In fact, it is the only mission. Michigan Reconnect shows clearly that there is a lot of mission-centered work to be done here.
If only we could find someone to do it.
Photo Credit: The Focal Project , via Flickr