Michigan's College Access Blog

Looking at the College Going Culture of Michigan Adults

As part of a continuing partnership between the Michigan College Access Network and the Institute of Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University, several questions regarding Michigan adults' perceptions on the College Going Culture within the state were included as part of this year's State of the State Survey. The sample for this survey included 966 individuals, surveyed between March 2015 and June 2015, who are Michigan adults age 18 or older. Using the results from this survey, MCAN has developed a report including the results of Michigan adults' responses to three key questions:

Question #1: For a young person in Michigan to be successful in the labor market and in their career, how important is it to have a college education?

Question #2: How likely is it that your child will get a college education?

Question #3: At today's levels of tuition and financial aid, a college education is reasonably affordable for people in Michigan.

The results from the survey reveal an important fact regarding Michigan adults' perceptions about higher education; Michigan adults definitively agree that a college education is important (96%), and also believe their children are more likely than not to attend college (93%) despite their belief that a college education is not reasonably affordable today (69.7%).

Considering these survey results, it is important to understand that Michigan citizens believe the work of college access organizations such as MCAN and the various Local College Access Networks around the state is indeed critical work. At the same time, there is important work to be done to ensure postsecondary opportunities are more affordable for Michigan residents, and information about financial aid is disseminated more efficiently to all students and families. We encourage LCANs and college access professionals to share this brief in their community and to discuss the regional data. Some of the questions that may be useful in your work as a college access professional or advocate include the following:

  • How can I help students to understand the breadth of postsecondary opportunities in Michigan?
  • What are best practices in helping students to identify sources of financial assistance for postsecondary opportunities?
  • How can I work with families to ensure they are confident in their child's ability to embark upon and successfully navigate the college going process?
  • What other allies do I have in my community who are dedicated to college access work? How can I best align these individuals based upon our common interest?

We here at MCAN are committed to improving college access and success for Michigan residents throughout the state. With the results of this survey, we are once again assured that there is work to be done and a citizenry desirous of improvement.

Want to take a closer look at the State of the State Survey results? Check out State of the State Survey: A Check-in: Looking at the College Going Culture of Michigan Adults, available on MCAN's website.

Jamie Jacobs headshot 2013Author: Jamie Jacobs, director of professional development at MCAN
Posted: September 2, 2015

Birthday Celebrations and Reflection

Brandy and Kirby

August is a very special month to me. I was born in August. Five years ago, MCAN officially launched as its own non-profit organization. Last year, I married the love of my life. And this August? I welcomed our first born – Kirby Daniel Repko.

During the pregnancy, I was often asked, "Is this your first?" I would joke that Kirby was my first human child, but that MCAN would always be my first baby. Now, nothing can compare to Kirby, but starting a nonprofit and watching it grow is more common to pregnancy and labor than one might think!

That immediate feeling of joy, excitement and panic when you receive confirmation your nonprofit status is approved or you're officially pregnant? Check

Growing pains? Check

Late night projects to submit a grant in time or finish building a crib? Check

Surrounding yourself with a strong support network? Check

Celebrating all victories - big and small? Check

Starting a nonprofit is no easy task. I remember the early days sitting alone in the MCAN office on Chestnut Street. Now, I'm surrounded by seven incredibly talented and dedicated colleagues. Each team member has pushed us farther and helped improve Michigan's college access strategy. In the past five years we've:

  • Awarded more than $4 million dollars to local communities to implement innovative college access strategies.
  • Launched a statewide initiatives strategy to include College Application Week, College Cash Campaign and College Decision Day.
  • Improved training and support for high school counselors through grants and a postsecondary planning training course.
  • Embraced collective impact framework, resulting in the production of Charting the Course: A community's guide for increasing educational attainment through the lens of collective impact.
  • Hosted numerous professional development opportunities through the annual conference, webinars and LCAN convenings.
  • Supported the growth of college advisers in Michigan through AdviseMI, Michigan State University College Advising Corps and the University of Michigan College Advising Corps.
  • Watched Michigan's college attainment rate increase from 36.4% to 38.4%

MCAN 5th birthday

And this is only a few of our accomplishments! I'm extremely proud of our hard working staff and board. MCAN would not be where it is today without them. I can't wait to see what the next five years will bring.

Happy birthday MCAN!


I won't leave you without the traditional baby facts and adorable pictures. Kirby was born on Saturday, August 1, 2015 at 6:34 a.m. He was 6 lbs, 10 oz and 19 inches long. The MCAN staff is already busy spoiling Kirby and stopping by for visits. Kirby even has his first acceptance letter to college courtesy of our good friend Christopher Tremblay at Western Michigan University.

Thank you to everyone for your well wishes!

Kirby collage


Author: Brandy Johnson, executive director of the Michigan College Access Network
Posted: August 19, 2015

MCAN Launches AdviseMI, New College Adviser Program for Michigan High Schools

As part of the Michigan College Access Network’s commitment to #ReachHigher and achieve Goal 2025,MCAN launched a new college advising program called AdviseMI. The program seeks to help more Michigan students pursue postsecondary education by placing recent college graduates as advisers in communities across Michigan, particularly those with low college-going rates and low adult educational attainment rates.

Training kicks off this week for the 40 newly-hired advisers who are recent graduates from 12 partnering colleges. Collectively, they will serve 50 high schools in every corner of the state and 35,000 students, 8,000 of whom are seniors. Working alongside high school counselors and other school staff, these advisers will support students as they make the transition from high school to a postsecondary education institution.

How did MCAN get to this point today?

It started as an MCAN board of directors’ discussion in September 2014. Michigan was seeing great success from the highly-effective College Advising Corps through Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, and MCAN was regularly contacted by high schools asking how more advisers could be made available across the state. MCAN’s board wanted to explore other options to meet the high need and high demands, so they encouraged MCAN staff to explore the possibility of launching a strategy to increase the number of dedicated college advisers in Michigan.

My staff and I dove right into the challenge and identified over 350 high schools in Michigan that had either above a 42 percent Free-and-Reduced lunch rate (state average) or served at least 400 students who were on Free-and-Reduced lunch. We wanted to make sure there were lots of schools with need – and doing this analysis confirmed our hunch.

We quickly arranged a meeting with representatives from the Governor’s Office and State Budget Office to gauge interest of public funding to support a major college advising initiative. From the beginning, we conceptualized this program as a public-private partnership. We suggested that the State put forward 1/3 of the necessary funds and challenge MCAN to raise the remaining 2/3 from non-state sources.

The next few months were spent designing the program and setting goals. While attending the White House College Opportunity Day of Commitment in early December 2014, MCAN committed to hiring an additional 40 college advisers to serve an additional 50 high schools. This goal allowed us to double the impact of efforts already made by the Michigan State University College Advising Corps and the University of Michigan College Advising Corps.

Next, we secured funding through an AmeriCorps grant opportunity and approached college and university presidents across the state to explore the possibility of a partnership. This partnership asked the colleges to provide small financial support while MCAN committed to hiring recent college graduates from the partner colleges to serve as advisers. Ultimately, MCAN established partnerships with 12 colleges and universities.

By February 2015, it was becoming more real as we opened the RFP process for high schools to apply to host an adviser. We received more applications than we could support, making the process competitive. The selected high schools were announced in April during our annual conference.

MCAN staff quickly turned into recruitment mode for recent college graduates from our partner colleges and universities. From May to June 2015, with the support of our high school and college partners, MCAN hired 40 advisers as well as two co-directors that will lead the new program. Training for the newly-hired advisers kicks off this week, and then the advisers will report to their buildings and begin serving in late August 2015.

Remember our challenge by the State? MCAN met the challenge and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder recommended an additional $1 million in his most recent budget for programs intended to increase the number of college advisers in schools.

My staff and I couldn’t be more thrilled to see our hard work coming to life. We were aggressive and kept our eye on the ultimate goal of helping more students as they make the transition from high school to a postsecondary education institution.

Follow the AdviseMI college advisers during training on Instagram: @AdviseMI or #AdviseMI.

For more information, visit micollegeaccess.org/statewide-initiatives/advisemi.

Brandy Johnson headshot 2013Author: Brandy Johnson, Michigan College Access Network executive director

Posted: July 8, 2015

Helping Veterans Get to and through College

An estimated 30,000 to 50,000 veterans will leave the military and move to Michigan in the next five years. In an effort to support veterans transitioning to civilian life and to aid in their pursuit of a college education, Michigan College Access Network partnered with the Michigan Veteran Affairs Agency to create the Michigan Veteran Education Initiative. This new program provides one-on-one support to help the thousands of veterans who enroll in Michigan’s educational institutions, by providing outreach services, support and information.

 MVEI1 2  MVEI1 3
Veteran Resource Representatives participating in the Tight Lines for Troops fishing tournament 
 A Veteran Resource Representative at work in her office

The MVEI launched in the fall of 2014, with 13 veteran resource representatives hired to work at 15 college campuses around the state. These representatives are housed on campus and interact with student veterans, assisting them as they complete benefits applications and navigate the higher education and financial aid processes. MVAA and MCAN hope the extra guidance will encourage veterans to pursue a higher education and provide them with valuable networking opportunities when they return to civilian life. Veteran resource representatives are an important component of efforts to foster greater success for our veterans who attend institutions of higher learning. The representatives also help demonstrate that Michigan’s educational institutions are national leaders in supporting student veterans.

MCAN and MVAA are excited to share success stories and data from our first year of support. Between January and May 2015, 475 veterans were individually served by veteran resource representatives. The top five reasons for veterans seeking assistance have been:

  • VA benefits;
  • Academic issues;
  • Financial issues;
  • Student life; and
  • Career guidance.

In addition, 136 veterans received assistance with benefit claims that they earned as a result of military service. These benefits bring revenue into the state of Michigan and support veterans in meeting their higher education and life goals.

Recently, veterans were surveyed about their level of satisfaction with support provided by veteran resource representatives. Of the respondents, 97 percent felt the VRR met or exceeded their expectations. Here are a few quotes from veterans who were asked about the best part of having a VRR on campus:

“Someone is always there looking out for veterans.”

“I now have help navigating complicated government and educational systems.”

“I could not have done it without them.”

There have been many success stories through the VRR meetings. This one is an example of how one interaction can be life changing:  

A veteran was using student loans because he wasn't eligible for benefits due to a general discharge. The discharge was upgraded. His truck was fixed by the Michigan Veterans Trust Fund ($2,300), and he was signed up with VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program (Chapter 31) and received backdated pay for one year ($19, 152). The veteran was approved, through his Chapter 31, to continue on with a bachelor’s degree in engineering. The veteran also will receive $11,200 from previous Pell Grants, and $22,000 paid back to the higher education institution. The veteran’s life is changed; he will be able to graduate college free of debt, with an engineering degree.

Veteran resource representatives are documenting stories like this every day. MVAA and MCAN couldn’t be more proud of our hard-working veteran resource representatives or more thankful for our college partners helping make this initiative possible. The list of college campuses that participate in the MVEI includes: Baker College-Flint; Ferris State University; Grand Valley State University; Grand Rapids Community College; Jackson College; Lansing Community College; MIAT College of Technology; Michigan State University; Mid-Michigan Community College; Kirtland Community College; North Central Michigan College; Northern Michigan University; Oakland Community College; Spring Arbor University; and Western Michigan University.

MCAN and MVAA are excited to announce the expansion of the MVEI to include two more veteran resource representatives. Applications are open for new partner institutions until July 6, 2015. Colleges and universities are encouraged to review the cover letter and application for additional information, which can be found on our MVEI webpage.

Jaimie Hutchison headshotAuthor: Jaimie Hutchison, MVEI program manager

Posted: June 25, 2015

Michigan College Access Network | 200 N Washington Square, Suite 210, Lansing, MI 48933 (map) | (517) 316-1713 Contact Us | Site Map | Terms and Privacy