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State Lowers Michigan Reconnect Bar

The State of Michigan will now fund community college tuition for students who are at least 21 and have not yet earned 60 college credits. The additional funding will expand the potential reach of the program, at least temporarily through Fall 2024. Newly eligible applicants must apply to the program no later than November 15, 2024.

Under the old eligibility rules, 132,000 people applied for the program and 32,000 took the additional step of enrolling in eligible academic programs. That’s slightly less than 25%. Under the expanded eligibility, another 350,000 people could theoretically take advantage of the program. If the uptake rate holds for younger participants, community colleges (and other eligible institutions) could expect to see as many as 85,000 more students.

One danger of lowering the bar for Michigan Reconnect funding is the possibility that students will forgo applying for college admission directly out of high school. Studies have shown that the likelihood of young adults returning to school after not immediately enrolling after high school graduation is low – about 13%. The lowered age eligibility risks creating a generation of young adults who simply will not re-enter the education system after taking three years off.

Using a 15% estimate rather than the 24% enrollment rate that Michigan Reconnect has established among older adults, the added enrollment may be fewer than 53,000.

Community colleges must improve their outreach to high school students who are approaching graduation. Some institutions have found great success in reaching this cohort by using SMS messaging instead of email or postal mail.

Community colleges can’t rely on Michigan Reconnect

One study, which involved Moorpark Community College in Moorpark, CA, found that students responded well to two-way text messaging in a variety of circumstances. The school was able to increase student registration for both the Spring 2022 and Fall 2022 semesters by sending SMS messages encouraging students to register for classes in both semesters.

Within a week of reaching out by two-way text messaging, more than 27% of the recipients had registered, compared to only 15% of students who had not received the SMS prompts. Additionally, more than 7 out of 10 students who communicated with a counselor via text message were enrolled in classes for the Spring 2023 semester. That compares to only 62% of students who did not engage with Moorpark Community College using SMS messaging.

Using SMS messaging may be among the best ways to meet prospective students where they are, and avoid creating a 3-year (or longer) gap in a young adult’s education.

Photo Credit: Marco Vertch Professional Photographer