Michigan's College Access Blog

Maritime Academy: Participant Reflections, Part One

Since 2012, the Michigan College Access Network has hosted Maritime Academy, a three-day, intensive dive into the Collective Impact framework as applied to Local College Access Networks. This invite-only, intimate gathering of LCAN Coordinators and Leadership Team members from across the state and country are selected to join the staff for a comprehensive training. Last month marked the fifth year of Maritime Academy. This blog is the first of a two-part series that includes testimonials from several Maritime Academy graduates.  


Doug Wright
Coordinator, Midland Career & College Access Network

"I went to MCAN’s Maritime Academy not really knowing what to expect. I had been in my job as an LCAN coordinator for about three weeks and was still trying to wrap my head around my position as it related to my county, my state, and most importantly, Michigan students. Maritime Academy truly helped clarify many of my questions. The presentations covered step by step how to begin an LCAN through how to continuously improve a highly functioning LCAN. This structure ensured that everyone in the room had valuable takeaways at the end of the three days.  For me, the Academy clarified my LCAN’s past and provided an understanding of the theory that went into getting us to our current stage of development. I then learned how to take the next steps to help our LCAN reach its full potential. The brilliance of the presentations is that the same was true for everyone else in the room, regardless of where their LCAN is on the developmental spectrum.

The speakers were energetic, engaging, interesting and informative. It is rare that I find a discussion about data or collective impact, to name just two examples, interesting. Maritime Academy succeeded in my eyes where many before had failed. The consistent use of humor, audience participation, as well as the much more important aspect of conveying information that was both societally important and personally necessary to do my job had me hooked. Each speaker was effective and obviously was an expert in their field. 

The speakers also made it abundantly clear that our connection with them does not end with the end of Maritime Academy. Each speaker, in multiple presentations, announced many times that they were not only available for consultation but that they welcomed those discussions. They offered, numerous times, to come to our Leadership Team and Action Team meetings to provide whatever assistance or guidance we as local coordinators may need.

As someone who has all the normal insecurities that go with starting a new position, especially a position where students’ lives can be impacted positively or negatively based on my performance, I am glad to have the MCAN team in my corner. Whether you are a new coordinator, new Leadership Team member, or in some other way working with an LCAN, I highly suggest you make plans to attend the Maritime Academy. It will provide valuable education which will greatly increase your chances of being successful."


Angelica Gallegos
Service Center Manager, Allegan-Barry County West Michigan Works!
Leadership Team Board Member, Barry Career Access Network 

"Attending Maritime Academy as a member of the leadership team was a great educational experience. The benefits of understanding the structure of collective impact, the structure of an LCAN, the responsibilities of the various pieces and parts of that LCAN was enlightening.

In terms of the presentations themselves, I considered them outstanding! Each section was again, well structured, clear, and delivered with a depth of knowledge and passion that was easily seen. The necessity for collective impact is unquestionable.  Its benefits are far reaching, and touch all industries all institutions all organizations. With that being said, the most important facet of this work is the educational attainment of our students. Our students deserve our best efforts, and collective impact is the mechanism by which to accomplish this."



Author: Sarah Anthony, Deputy Director for Partnerships and Advocacy
Posted: Sept. 6, 2017


Stronger Nation, Stronger Michigan: Tracking Michigan’s Progress Toward Goal 2025

The Michigan College Access Network works to increase the percentage of Michigan residents with degrees or postsecondary certificates to 60 percent by the year 2025. This goal, which was adopted from the Lumina Foundation, fuels our sense of urgency, shapes our policy agenda, and informs our programs and grantmaking.

In May, Lumina Foundation released its annual Stronger Nation report which provides a progress report on our country’s postsecondary educational attainment rate.  MCAN uses this data to educate statewide and local stakeholders on Michigan residents’ educational achievements beyond high school.   Here are a few highlights from the report:

  • For the seventh year in a row, Michigan’s postsecondary educational attainment rate has increased by 7.8 percentage points. 
  • Michigan’s official postsecondary attainment rate is now 43.4%. This number includes associate degrees or higher as well as high-quality postsecondary certificates.
  • While our state has seen increases over the years, we continue to see significant gaps in educational attainment among African American, Hispanic, and Native American students and their White and Asian counterparts.

While we are encouraged by our state’s steady attainment increases, we must take bold action if we want to reach Goal 2025.  As a member of the Governor’s 21st Century Education Commission, MCAN advocated for the state of Michigan to adopt a goal of 70% or more of our 25-year olds having completed a college degree, occupational certificate, apprenticeship, or formal training by the year 2025.  MCAN also supported the commission’s recommendation an elimination of the equity gap by 2025.

We strongly encourage you to review our state’s data and to widely share the information throughout your networks.


Author: Brandy Johnson, Executive Director
Posted: Aug. 1, 2017



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

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