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TN Community College Tuition Program Shows Enrollment Pathway

The Michigan Reconnect program provides free community college tuition for adult learners without a degree over the age of 25. The program is based on Tennessee Reconnect, which supports degree-seeking students over the age of 24. The State of Tennessee introduced its program in 2018. In its first year of operation, Tennessee expected to receive about 10,000 applicants. It found about 4 times as many people who wanted to return to school.

That supports what I’ve been saying all along. There are more than enough people to pack community college classrooms throughout the state. These people are not recent high school graduates. And Michigan has about a million-plus people above age 25 who have no college degree.

Currently, the State of Michigan is enrolling students in the Michigan Reconnect program and the applications keep rolling in. That’s great news because Michigan is below-average in the number of adult residents with college degrees. Getting these people back into the classroom is how community colleges will survive the current dip in the birth rate.

The intelligent community college administration will work diligently to locate and recruit these students. Getting them into the classrooms is beneficial not only for them but also for the college itself. The community college can also help support students who had enrolled at one time and dropped out somewhere along the way. Between emerging technologies and major shifts in regional economies, there are an incredible number of opportunities to train and retrain workers.

But all these opportunities get lost when community college administrators choose to engage in hand wringing instead of designing programs to attract students. They focus only on the number of high school seniors instead of the number of adults in the workforce.

Community college tuition program is key

The great thing about community colleges is that they serve learners of all ages. Ignoring the number of potential and enrolled learners over the age of 25 is a profound disservice to the community. Ignoring them in discussions regarding enrollment projections is misleading. Not developing programs to find, recruit and retain older learners in this circumstance is mismanagement. Especially when the state funds a free community college tuition program just for them.

The highly compensated administration at WCC owes this community a lot. We deserve better than an administration whose best idea is to raise the white flag when enrollment declines. Pursuing money-making strategies outside the scope and mission of the community college is not “thinking outside the box.” It is doing something other than what they were hired to do. And Trustees who accept this without question are selling Washtenaw County residents short.

Photo Credit: Brian Carlson, via Flickr