Gilchrist Gathers Feedback on Michigan Reconnect at Delta College

Michigan Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners students had the opportunity to meet with Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist at Delta College on Thursday to discuss possible improvements to the scholarship program.

The reunion also served as a second anniversary celebration of Michigan Reconnect, which offers free courses to earn an associate’s degree or Pell-eligible proficiency certificate at Michigan community colleges for those 25 or older.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced in her State of the State address that her goal this term is to lower the minimum age for Michigan Reconnect to 21.

“I’m proud of every Michigander who took the initiative to go to school in order to build a better future for themselves and their family,” Gilchrist said. “Higher education and qualified degrees open many doors, and we want to increase the number of eligible applicants so that more Michiganders can achieve rewarding careers, bigger paychecks, and a better quality of life.”

Futures for Frontliners is a state scholarship program for Michigan residents without a college degree who worked in essential industries during the state’s COVID-19 shutdown in the spring of 2020. This scholarship provides frontline workers with a Tuition-free access to a local community college to pursue an associate’s degree or skills certificate, full-time or part-time.

Gilchrist began his visit with a tour of the CNC and welding labs. During this tour, he was able to chat with the instructors and students of the program and watch the students work.

After the visit, Gilchrist hosted a roundtable with the students to get feedback on the program and how to improve it. Students mentioned a lack of promotion of the Reconnect program and dual enrollment options, as well as scheduling issues.

Some students said that many young people had not heard of Michigan Reconnect and therefore did not know how to apply. Gilchrist encouraged students in the program to share their experiences to spread the word.

“You telling your story is far more compelling than anything I (can do),” Gilchrist said. “So what I would encourage you to do is talk about it. ‘I’m in college, it helped me, it might help you too.’ You’re going to be the best advocates for it because you will tell your story.

The students said they also didn’t know their dual enrollment options until it was too late. Gilchrist agreed that dual enrollment is a useful option for students and that high school students should have more information about it.

“I appreciated the student’s note about dual enrollment and how he hoped it would have been something he was more aware of,” he said. “We want high school students to know they have options.”

Outside of the program, students said it can be difficult to find time to attend classes after receiving the scholarship. One student recommended requiring only six credit hours per semester, so students also have time for full-time jobs or families.

Overall, students are grateful for the program and agree they wouldn’t be in college without Michigan Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners.

“Being able to hang out with students who are in the program right now, hearing so many of them say, ‘I couldn’t have gone back to college without this program, I wouldn’t have been able to change careers without this scholarship, I would not be able to support my family without this scholarship,” said Gilchrist. “That’s why we’re doing it…I’m really inspired and it motivates me to keep trying to improve the program and make it more effective.”

More than 2,300 Delta College students qualified for the Futures for Frontliners or Michigan Reconnect program this academic year.

“The hardest part of school should be in the classroom (without paying tuition),” said Delta College President Dr. Michael Gavin.

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