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Michigan's new state budget includes free community college tuition for high school graduates

The governor said the new program will benefit more than 18,000 students.
Students seen on campus through a window
Posted at 9:28 AM, Jul 11, 2024

High school graduates in the state of Michigan will now be able to attend their local community college tuition-free.

It’s part of Michigan's $19 billion school aid budget for fiscal year 2025, which is just a fraction of the state’s $82.5 billion overall budget that passed June 27.

The governor said the new program will benefit more than 18,000 students.

“In our next budget, let's make the first two years of community college in Michigan tuition-free for every high school graduate," Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said during her 2024 State of the State address on Jan. 24.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer gives 2024 State of the State

The idea was met with applause by Democrats during the speech and is now a reality. Michigan high school graduates can earn an associate degree or skills certificate from their local community college for free. The program only covers the in-district tuition cost.

“We’re excited by it," said Jim Sawyer, president of Macomb Community College. "Obviously, anything to really make college more affordable for our students is something we’re going to be very supportive of.”

Jim Sawyer Macomb Community College

Sawyer said the school expects thousands of its students to benefit, such as the thousands who have been benefiting from a similar program called Michigan Reconnect, which provides free in-district community college tuition for students over the age of 25. It's been temporarily lowered to age 21.

“Some high school graduates never see college as part of their future," Sawyer said. "They may have grown up in families where no one went to college, so they don't even think it's attainable. So when they hear the term 'free,' all of a sudden it opens up their eyes.”

Whitmer's office estimates 18,000 students will benefit from this new change, saving them each nearly $5,000 per year.

"It would have saved me a lot of money,” said Salvatore Cipriano, a current student at Macomb Community College. "Money is a big barrier, especially for young people.”

Sawyer said the previous programs like Michigan Reconnect helped lead to a slight increase in enrollment at Macomb Community College, and he expects this new promise to high school graduates to do the same.

“We were up a few percent last year, so we expect to see something similar this year,” Sawyer said. "We certainly benefit from the tuition no doubt, but what's most important is giving the students an opportunity to attend college.”

As part of this budget, there is also $1,000 available to students who qualify for the Pell Grant. The money is for additional costs such as textbooks and transportation.

This story was originally published by Brett Kast at Scripps News Detroit.