Michigan's College Access Blog

Governor Snyder signs education budget – major steps in the right direction to expand college access

On Friday, July 14th, Governor Snyder signed the state education budget for Fiscal Year 2018 (which will begin on October 1) at the Kent ISD Career Tech Center.  It was no coincidence that he chose to sign the budget at a venue that exists to help students become college and career ready.  MCAN is thrilled to see that included in the budget were several items that will expand access to postsecondary educational opportunities for Michigan students.  Here are the highlights- 

MCAN & College Access/Success  

  • MCAN Appropriation:  For the sixth year in a row, the Governor proposed and the legislature supported a line-item appropriation to MCAN to support MCAN operations, LCANs, college advisers, subgrants to high schools, and statewide campaigns like Michigan College Month and Michigan College Decision Day.  The $3 million appropriation helps MCAN leverage additional financial support from philanthropic, federal, institutional, and other local sources.  We are incredibly grateful for the broad bi-partisan support for MCAN that Governor Snyder and the legislature has demonstrated since 2012. 
  • New CEPI Reporting on Academic Progress:  The budget requires that CEPI make new reports available to high schools that will provide data on the academic progress of former students by institution.  These reports will help high schools make data-driven decisions and forge new partnerships with colleges and universities. 
  • Michigan Transfer Network Enhancements:  The budget includes a one-time appropriation of $1,025,000 for improvements to the Michigan Transfer Network (MTN).  The MTN website helps students, advisers, and other college access professionals find transfer course equivalencies between Michigan colleges and universities.  This funding will provide for a new and more user-friendly website, including a course equivalency database, info about the Michigan Transfer Agreement, and Associate-to-Bachelor degree transfer pathways that will allow a student to maximize their credits earned.  This was a recommendation in the Reaching for Opportunity report. 

Financial Aid:  Overall, the budget reflects an additional $16.3 million investment in need-based student financial aid.  Financial aid is MCAN’s top advocacy priority and recommendations to increase need-based aid were featured in both the Reaching for Opportunity report and the Governor’s 21st Century Education Commission final report.   

  • Tuition Incentive Program (TIP):  The budget includes a $5.3 million increase to a total of $58.3 million to TIP, an 8.6% increase.  The TIP program targets low-income students who are Michigan Medicaid-eligible for 24 months in a 36-consecutive-month period and pays tuition/fees for associate degree and certificate programs as well as up to $2,000 at a four-year institution.  Several other provisions related to the administration of the TIP scholarship were included – reach out to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you want more info. 
  • Michigan Competitive Scholarship:  The budget increased funding to the MCS program by $8 million from $18.4 million to $26.4 million, a 43.6% increase.  The annual MCS award will be $1,000 per student.  The deadline to apply for MTG is March 1.  Eligibility expires 10 years after high school graduation.  MCS provides scholarships to undergraduates students demonstrating moth need and merit. 
  • Michigan Tuition Grant:  The budget increases funding by $3 million from $35 million to $38 million, an 8.6% increase.  The annual MTG award will be $2,000 per student.  The Tuition Grant is a need-based grant for students attending private institutions.
  • FAFSA:  Beginning with the high school graduating class of 2018, students must complete the FAFSA to be considered eligible for any scholarship or grant administered by the Department of Treasury. 

College and University Operations

  • The budget includes a 1% increase to community colleges for operations ($3,158,900).  The increases range from 0.5%-3.2% boost for each of Michigan’s 28 community colleges. 
  • The budget includes a 2% increase to universities for operations ($28,000,000).  Half of the increase is across-the-board and half of the increase is performance-based and only eligible to institutions who restrain tuition to minimum increases (the greater of 3.8% or $475).  The increases range from 1.5% (LSSU) to 2.7% (GVSU) for each of Michigan’s 15 public universities. 

Other Exciting Gems

  • Career Preparation and Readiness Platform:  The budget includes $1,000,000 to expand a web-based career preparation and readiness platform statewide.  The state will likely identify and provide funding to support an existing platform that helps students explore careers, connect with local companies that provide opportunities for job shadowing and internships, and understand the education/training requirements needed for specific careers. 
  • AP Incentive Program:  The budget includes $750,000 to cover to costs of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate test fees for low-income students.  This is three times the amount appropriated last year!  


Author: Brandy Johnson, Executive Director
Posted: July 26, 2017

Mission Complete: The Michigan Veterans Education Initiative

The Michigan Veterans Education Initiative (MVEI) program officially ended in May 2017. This innovative initiative established veteran’s service outreach activities at colleges and universities throughout the state of Michigan.  To deliver these services, the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA), in partnership with the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN), selected and positioned full-time, highly qualified veteran resource representatives (VRRs) on the campuses of each participating institution. Leading the MVEI effort throughout, the VRRs significantly expanded veteran counseling and service delivery capacity.  Although the VRRs focused their efforts on connecting veteran students with education benefits, they also developed new programs, sponsored outreach events, trained faculty and staff and solved many problems on behalf of the veterans in their communities.

Seventeen institutions participated in the MVEI at some point during the program, including Northern
Michigan University; North Central Michigan College; Mid-Michigan Community College; Ferris State University; Grand Rapids Community College; Grand Valley State University; Michigan State University, Lansing Community College; Baker College-Flint; Oakland University; Oakland Community College; Eastern Michigan University; Western Michigan University; Jackson Community College; MIAT College of Technology; Spring Arbor University; and Kirtland Community College. 

During the program, the VRRs connected over 4,000 veteran students with their education benefits. They sponsored or supported over 400 campus events and developed several new and innovative programs and service delivery enhancements at their respective schools. The VRRs also served as ambassadors for their institutions, representing their schools at local veteran’s events and by responding to any type of resource or benefit inquiry from local veterans, their families or students. As the program completion date neared, nine participating institutions made official decisions to maintain their VRR in some capacity by creating full-time positions for their veteran’s services provider.

Many of the VRR initiatives have had an enormous impact on the IHLs and are now entrenched as a standard practice. At one school, the VRR introduced a “Textbook Loan Program.” This program encouraged all students on campus to donate their used books to the veterans support office for future use by a veteran student. The veteran service office on campus collected over 350 donated books and obtained a $20,000 donation from an anonymous source as well as six laptop computers from Blue Cross Blue Shield. This endeavor also made it possible for the veteran support office to offer free printing services to veteran students. Most of the VRRs were successful in convincing university leadership to create or expand dedicated veteran’s resource centers. New student orientations now include VRR presentations. The VRRs expanded the VA Work-Study programs at almost every IHL while invigorating their Student Veterans of America (SVA) chapters.

A veteran resource representative assists
two student veterans at Ferris State University.


The VRRs assemble in Lansing for monthly training:

Standing, from left to right: Randall Locke, JCC;
Morgan Barone, GVSU/GRCC; Mike Rutledge, NMU;
Jacob Schrott, FSU; Mike Welch, LCC;
Sarah Mellon, MSU; Jeff Schuett, OU;
Melissa Colby, NCMC; Chris Stanton, MMCC;
Jeremi Redmond, MIAT; Mark Baker, EMU; and
Eric Wuestenberg, Baker-Flint.
Kneeling: Mike Lee, Program Director 
Laying: Welles the Bow Wow

The VRRs were also proactive problem-solvers and crisis managers. Often times, the VRR was the most available or the only effectual problem managers available to local veterans and veteran students. Their ability to solve problems quickly, thoroughly and under any circumstance demonstrated the effectiveness and reach of the program. Support to veterans in crisis represented one of the most consequential and compassionate service elements of the MVEI. Two VRRs explain how they assisted student veterans, in their own words, below:

“Army veteran stopped in with the weight of the world on his shoulder. He needed legal resources to help with a custody/civil suit going on with his family, realized he purchased the wrong textbook from the bookstore and was trying to balance a full-time school schedule and working to save money to support his growing family. I sat him down and addressed each issue at hand. I was able to reach out to my fellow VRRs and collect possible legal resources he might have access to due to his veteran status. I also contacted the County VA Director and discovered there might be assistance available through a county office emergency fund.  I also called the campus bookstore manager and explained what had happened regarding book purchase explaining that the veteran had no money to purchase an entire new book. She did an override on the system and allowed him to exchange for the correct edition. The student thanked me profusely and looked much less devastated walking out compared to when he walked in”.

“A Navy veteran (recently discharged) came in to sign up for courses at the college. She hadn't applied for the GI Bill or filled out the financial aid application yet because she was too confused and overwhelmed by the process. She also mentioned that she did not file taxes for two prior years because she shuts down when it comes to gathering the necessary documents from military.  I told her to come in so we could get everything in motion. She did and by the end of our appointment we had ordered copy of DD214 from 1-800MICHVET, submitted application for GI Bill benefits, ordered military transcripts, and found a contact to assist her with filing her taxes and FAFSA.  I also gave her the application for the Emergency Fund on campus which ended up paying the fee associated with filing taxes for the two missing years so she can apply for federal financial aid. She was very thankful to have these tasks taken care of so she could focus on her coursework”.

The Michigan Veteran Education Initiative would like to thank our college and university partners, the Michigan Veteran Affairs Agency, the Michigan College Access Network, and above all, the Veteran Resource Representatives who dedicated their time and talent to this program.   


Author: Mike Lee, MVEI Program Director
Posted: July 12, 2017

Decision Day Celebrations Come to a Close; Michigan Well Represented

2017 saw MCAN’s fourth year of coordinating a College Decision Day campaign in high schools across the state, an initiative which seeks to build a college going culture by recognizing and celebrating the postsecondary plans of seniors. Throughout the month of May, 280 high schools hosted a College Decision Day event, a significant increase from last year’s 215 host sites. These events ranged from pep rallies to school fairs, and recognized a combined 41,000 seniors in front of their fellow students. Decision Day events are designed to impact college attainment and enrollment by increasing the awareness of younger students, helping fight summer melt through public commitment, and in assisting students to identify others attending the same institution, which can help create a necessary support system.

This campaign is MCAN’s regional coordination and support of the national College Signing Day Campaign, which has recently moved from Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Office to join Better Make Room at Civic Nation. I’m excited to announce that this year Michigan had more schools register to host an event than any other state in the nation, once again showing our commitment to expanding postsecondary access and creating a college going culture in our state. In addition to the number of host sites, Michigan schools took great advantage of mini-grant offered by the national campaign. Across the state, 70 schools received funding from Better Make Room, bringing in more than $37,000 to support their Decision Day events.

One site that received the Better Make Room grant was Howell High School, which coordinated an amazing event as their first year participating in the campaign. The school counselor at Howell used the grant money from the national campaign to purchase flags of postsecondary institutions, and seniors were grouped by college to take a victory lap around the track carrying their school's flag. What made this even more exciting was the inclusion of multiple grade levels all the way down to 5th grade, who attended the event to listen to the speakers and cheer on the seniors.

Another highlight of this year was the second annual Kalamazoo County College Signing Day. Coordinated by the College and Career Action Network in partnership with Kalamazoo Valley Community College and Western Michigan University, provided an opportunity for nearly 900 high school college, military or workforce-bound seniors in Kalamazoo County to gather and celebrate their intended post-secondary plan.  Students enjoyed a live DJ, motivational speakers, and a variety of giveaways. To support this larger effort, MCAN both sponsored the event and created a customized Snapchat filter, which was applied to 683 pictures and viewed over 13,000 times. 


Statewide, MCAN supports Decision Day events in a variety of ways.  All host sites are given free access to webinars and a coordinator toolkit which share best practices, offer examples of events, and provide templates for schools ranging from press releases to donation and volunteer requests. Additionally, MCAN helps bring attention to events through media outreach, and for the first time this year, created an Instagram contest for students to encourage social media buzz (you can check out the winners at my blog post). 

Lastly, Michigan host sites received promotional materials for their seniors, in the form of “I Decided” locker magnets and MCAN sunglasses. Due to unexpected circumstances in the shipping process, all promotional materials were shipped directly to MCAN’s office in what I now refer to as the “sunglassocalypse” (although I’m open to catchier names). If you’ve ever wondered about the logistics of sunglasses shipping, we ordered 45,000 pairs of sunglasses which equates to 2,650 lbs on six pallets, and one very sore and tired program assistant. However, through a valiant effort and a lot of help from the other MCAN staff, we managed to turn around and ship to all 280 sites within a week.

I want to wrap up this post by thanking all of the high school staff who were willing to put the time and effort into celebrating their students through Decision Day, as well as our higher education partners and Local College Access Networks who were able to spend time or funds to support this work in their communities. 


Author: Connor McLaughlin, Program Assistant
Posted: June 6, 2017


Howell High School Decision Day Celebrates Students Pursuing Postsecondary Education

This blog post was authored by Howell Public Schools and was originally published on the district's website. The blog is posted here with permission.

On Thursday, May 18, Howell High School celebrated College Decision Day. The goal of College Decision Day was to celebrate the school’s seniors for their postsecondary educational plans and encourage younger students to prepare early for postsecondary education. The celebration included a parade of seniors holding signs representing their postsecondary education choices, a school-wide assembly and guest speakers. The speakers included Sarah Anthony, Michigan College Access Network deputy director for partnership and advocacy; and Captain Marc Aalderink, United States Air Force intelligence officer and assistant professor of aerospace Studies.

In the fall students from Howell will begin their postsecondary education at schools like Harvard, Penn State, The University of Alabama, The University of Michigan. Michigan State University and Central Michigan University. Other students plan to join the armed forces or enter the workforce after graduation.

“At Howell High School we continue to create a college-going culture. Throughout the year we have had events to help encourage students to apply to institutions of postsecondary education and to learn about the various types of financial aid that is available to students,” said Lisa O’Connor, Howell High School dean of students. “As a school, district and community, we are extremely proud of the Class of 2017 for taking this big step for their future.”

College Decision Day is the third event that Howell High School has hosted to help promote a college-going culture. Earlier in the school year, students participated in College Application Week, where all seniors were encouraged to apply to at least one college. The school also held a College Cash Campaign which taught students and parent about the various forms of financial aid available to help pay for college.


Author: Sarah Anthony, Deputy Director for Partnerships and Advocacy
Posted: May 31, 2017

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