Equity-Focused “Free College” Movement Picks Up Steam

Before COVID-19 threw a wrench in the gears of the U.S. economy, the equity-focused free college movement was picking up steam.

Yet, in too many states, the free college promise remains a promise unkept. And now, looming budget shortfalls resulting from the pandemic threaten to set back the equity-focused free college movement.

In a new report – A Promise Worth Keeping: An Updated Equity-Driven Framework for Free College Programs – The Education Trust revisits a 2018 rating of statewide college promise programs to review several new programs against an equity-focused framework.

According to the report, only two states, including Michigan, have existing or proposed free college programs designed specifically and exclusively with adults and returning students in mind: Tennessee (Tennessee Reconnect) and Michigan (Michigan Reconnect). Michigan Reconnect, which is on track for implementation this year, targets adult and returning students.

Read more about top-line findings of A Promise Worth Keeping and five broad recommendations for statewide free college programs here.


Guest Blog: Postsecondary Access is Key to COVID-19 Recession Recovery, but Challenges (and Opportunities) Abound

The Education Trust-Midwest on occasion welcomes partner organizations to submit content. The following is a guest blog by The Michigan College Access Network discussing the impact COVID-19 has had on college transition and access.

By Ty Forquer, Strategy Assistant for Strategic Engagement, and Jenny McArdle, Director of Service Strategy, at the Michigan College Access Network

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on college transition will be felt by the class of 2021 and beyond. Families face major questions about health and safety, the value of a virtual college experience, access to technology, and how to pay for college given changes to family finances. Despite these uncertainties, a college degree is becoming more — not less — necessary in a post-COVID-19 economy.

According to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, following the 2008 recession, the segment of the population with at least a bachelor’s degree gained 8.4 million jobs as part of the post-recession recovery. Those with associate degrees or certificates gained 3.1 million jobs. But those with a high school diploma or less gained just 80,000 jobs, after losing 5.6 million jobs in the recession. To put it more bluntly, for millions of Americans who do not hold a college degree, the recovery never happened. We expect to see the same pattern in the recovery from the COVID-19 recession.

Given this, college access is key to COVID-19 recession recovery. This message is particularly important for students who are low-income, first-generation college-going, and/or students of color — students for whom college may seem even further out of reach. So how do students and families navigate the challenges of postsecondary access in a COVID-19 world?

MCAN’s Response

In April, Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) launched a COVID-19 Response Grant program to provide schools and organizations with financial support to continue vital college access and persistence programs. Funding was used to move college preparation programs online, provide technology for online learning, and support virtual college access events, to name just a few uses. To date, MCAN and its philanthropic partners have invested nearly $600,000 in schools and organizations across the state.

Read MCAN’s full blog post, including information about its college advising hotline, its College COVID Response Guide, its College Bound Michigan Resource Site and more here.


Capital Update

The House Education Committee met this morning. The committee will consider Senate Bill 910 (Victory, R), regarding applications and approval of work permits for minors. The legislation passed the Senate on November 5, 2020.

The Senate Education and Career Readiness Committee is scheduled to meet today, November 12 at 2:30 pm, in room 403 of the State Capitol Building and streaming here. The committee will consider:

  • Senate Bill 25 (McBroom, R), which would change the selection of state board of education candidates to be done on a regional basis.
  • Senate Bill 41 (Santana, D), which would require the creation of educator professional development on mental health first aid.

The Senate Regulatory Reform Committee is scheduled to meet today, November 12 at 4:00 pm, in the Harry T. Gast Appropriations Room of the State Capitol Building and streaming here. The agenda includes:

  • House Bill 5217 (Iden, R), which would prohibit colleges, universities, and intercollegiate athletic associations and conferences from preventing college athletes from earning compensation for the use of the athlete’s name, image or likeness. This bill passed the House of Representatives on May 27 and received a hearing in the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee on September 29.
  • House Bill 5218 (Tate, D), which would repeal the section of the Michigan Penal Code that makes it a crime and specifies penalties for athlete agents to enter into certain contracts with student athletes. This bill passed the House of Representatives on May 27 and received a hearing in the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee on September 29.

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