A simple fix that could help more Michigan students earn a college degree seems to be off the table for the time being in Lansing after slipping through the cracks last year.
Expanding dual-enrollment programs, which allow high schoolers to earn college credits, could help Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s goal of sharply increasing Michigan’s college attainment rate at no cost to taxpayers, advocates say.
Last year, a bill that would have lifted the cap on the number of dual-enrollment credits students can earn before graduating high school — currently, 10 credits — was shelved in the House, after sailing through the Republican-controlled Senate.
No similar dual-attainment bills have been filed this year so far.
Whitmer and a bipartisan group of lawmakers are taking another tack, focusing on financial aid and scholarships for community college students.
“It’s not something we’ve really put a lot of focus on,” said Brandy Johnson, a senior advisor to Whitmer, of dual enrollment. “The major focus has been setting a bigger-picture budget framework. We’re really focused on fixing the damn roads.”
Advocates of dual enrollment have also called for new funds to incentivize high schools to participate in the programs. That proposal, which would cost money, was not included in Whitmer’s suggested budget for the coming year. Whitmer’s administration is open to reforming the state’s dual enrollment system in future legislative cycles, Johnson said.
“It’s something we’re gathering more information about and listening to more stakeholder feedback,” she said. “It’s certainly something we would consider supporting.”
Advocates say they’re far from giving up hope.
“Like all new administrations, they’re getting their feet below them,” said Dave Dugger, director of the Washtenaw Educational Options Consortium “But my sense is that looking at college credit earning options for high school students is very much a direction in which the governor and her team would like to move.”
She added: “The major priorities are new investments in student financial aid via the MIOpportunity and MIReconnect scholarships.
Legislation filed Tuesday would offer financial aid toward an associate’s degree or an industry credential for high school graduates over the age of 25. Another bill would eventually pay as much as $2,500 per year in community college tuition for high-achieving students whose family incomes are below $80,000. The proposals are designed to target the more than 2 million Michigan residents who are closest to finishing their degree or credential.
“My interest in it is personal,” said Ben Frederick, a Republican co-sponsor of the bill aimed at older citizens, who says he finished his degree 13 years after starting college. “I’m excited about the possibility of reconnecting adults with credentials and degree programs that they may have started and never finished.”
A press conference about the proposals is scheduled for tomorrow at Lansing Community College.