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Lake Michigan College announces new free tuition program – Leader Publications

BENTON HARBOR — Lake Michigan College announced Tuesday the creation of LMC Promise, a free tuition program for new and returning students beginning in Fall 2022.

The last-dollar program covers tuition costs of eligible in-district students who are high school graduates through age 24, meaning it pays the remaining tuition costs once other grants and scholarships have been applied.

The program is designed to meet the funding gap between high school graduation and eligibility for the Michigan Reconnect program at age 25.

“As a community, we need to take bold, new steps to meet the current employee shortage and to ensure a future workforce that is prepared to step into leadership positions across the district,” said LMC President Dr. Trevor Kubatzke. “The LMC Promise is that bold step. We created this program to address the needs of both local employers and the underemployed. We promise to connect all eligible students with free tuition and the opportunity to earn their associate degree with minimal loans to pay back and no strings attached.”

Who is eligible?

With the LMC Promise, tuition — up to 80 credit hours or 6 years — will be free for new and returning students who meet the following criteria:

  • Submit an LMC admissions application
  • Age 24 or younger
  • US citizen or eligible non-citizen
  • Residents of LMC’s district
  • Earned a high school diploma from an in-district high school, are an in-district home school graduate, or an in-district resident with a high school equivalency
  • Completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid
  • Family’s Adjusted Gross Income is $75,000 or less
  • Are pursuing a financial-aid eligible degree or certificate at LMC
  • Do not have an associate or bachelor’s degree

Inspiration

The state of Michigan’s Futures for Frontliners and Reconnect programs sparked the idea for the LMC Promise. While Frontliners was a short-term stop-gap initiative to help frontline workers achieve their educational goals, the Michigan Reconnect program continues to offer free community college tuition for students who are age 25 or older if they have a high school diploma or equivalent and haven ‘t already graduated from college.

“The Lake Michigan College Promise will put young Michiganders on tuition-free paths to good-paying jobs, help local small businesses find talent, and uplift working families,” said Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “Thanks to bold programs like the LMC Promise, Michigan Reconnect, and Futures for Frontliners, all of which help Michiganders attain higher education or training skills, we will continue driving towards Michigan’s Sixty by 30 goal to have 60 percent of the working-age population have a postsecondary degree or skills training by 2030. Since I took office, we’ve moved that rate up 4 percent to 49 percent and I am confident that we will continue building on our economic momentum and Michigan putting first so every family in every community can thrive.”

While Reconnect has helped students already in the workforce, LMC Promise provides a new opportunity for graduating high school seniors to pursue their college dreams.

“An educated workforce grows the economy and improves the lifestyle of everyone in the community,” said Jeff Fettig, retired chairman and CEO of Whirlpool Corp. “The LMC Promise will put higher education in reach of many more people, and it’s critical that the community partner with LMC on this initiative.”

“Closing the skills gap in Southwest Michigan’s labor force is critical to the economic success of our region,” added Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber President and CEO Arthur Havlicek. “By increasing access to quality education, the LMC Promise will help close this gap, strengthen our local pipeline of talent, and place more young people on the pathway to prosperity. Our Chamber is proud to support this effort on behalf of our members and the area’s business community.”

Community Impact

The LMC Promise aims to meet the needs of local employers and underemployed workers by providing a pathway for education and training. Industry leaders say the impact of this program will not only help them meet the current employee shortage but help to ensure a future skilled and reliable workforce in industries such as healthcare, manufacturing and more.

“We are so very grateful for Lake Michigan College’s long commitment to educating the next generation of health care workers,” said Beaumont Health-Spectrum Health Lakeland President Dr. Loren Hamel. “This bold additional commitment will help ensure that all have access to that outstanding education.”

“The world of work is changing, our demographics are shifting, and our region needs a higher-level ecosystem for creating new opportunities,” added Kinexus Group President and CEO Todd Gustafson. “We applaud Lake Michigan College for showing the vision and foresight and leading all of higher education into a new era.”

Program Evolution

Lake Michigan College created the LMC Promise following the success of its one-year free tuition pilot program for the 2021-2022 academic year. That program aimed to help students find a sense of normalcy and address the added financial burden caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We started talking about how to help our students get back to campus,” said LMC Vice President of Student Affairs Nygil Likely. “Our initial goal was to help ease the burden for our existing students, but what we saw in our enrollment numbers proved that the program also made a significant impact for new students as well as students looking to complete unfinished degrees.”

LMC saw an 18 percent increase in enrollment from Fall 2020 to Fall 2021 semester, which totaled 3,335 students. Similarly, for the Spring 2022 semester —which began Jan. 10 — LMC has seen a 13 percent increase from Spring 2021 with 2,890 students.

Like the free-tuition pilot program, LMC Promise is a last-dollar program, which means it covers any remaining tuition balance for eligible students after federal and other grants and scholarship dollars have been applied. The LMC Foundation will fund the balance through existing scholarship dollars and other monies raised. The LMC Promise does not cover additional costs such as books or housing.

“We saw incredible potential in the 2021-22 free tuition program,” said LMC Board of Trustees Chair Jeff Curry. “It was really well received and clearly met a need for students. We want to make sure that need is met – that financial barrier overcome – whenever young people in our community face it.”

For more information, visit lakemichigancollege.edu/promise.

To apply to LMC, visit lakemichigancollege.edu/apply. For additional questions, email admissions@lakemichigancollege.edu or call/text (269) 927-8626.

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