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Michigan Community College Association Lays the Groundwork for State-Level Policy Changes

February 14, 2024 3-minute read
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Recent policy changes and collaborative initiatives in Michigan highlight how state actors working with intermediary organizations can play a critical role in creating stronger, more equitable postsecondary education pathways that lead to good jobs. The Michigan Community College Association (MCCA), which represents 31 public and tribal community colleges, is a leading advocate for postsecondary education and talent development within the state, working with college administrators, faculty, and staff at individual institutions to improve student outcomes. In states like Michigan, where there is no statewide governing body for public higher education institutions, organizations like MCCA have the opportunity to play a leadership role in sharing what student success looks like for the thousands of learners pursing postsecondary education and workforce training opportunities in Michigan.

MCCA, with Ascendium’s support, has been working to ensure that training and credentials offered by community colleges are informed by labor market data and partnerships with industry leaders and universities. Such partnerships help ensure that learners from low-income backgrounds pursue credentials that lead to good jobs or smooth transfer to a bachelor’s degree program. MCCA also works to advocate for and inform alignment in state policy to ensure that these partnerships and high-quality programs can be scaled and sustained.

Below are examples of how MCCA leadership has led statewide efforts to improve transfer practices and create pathways between community colleges, other postsecondary education institutions, and the workforce.

  • With MCCA’s assistance, numerous institutions signed new articulation agreements to allow certain courses and competencies to transfer and count towards credit. Information about these agreements is publicly available through the Michigan Transfer Network, also known as MiTransfer. In addition to MiTransfer, MiWorkforce Pathways has also been a great resource for learners transferring to and from Michigan’s public and private colleges and universities.
  • New scholarship programs for non-credit workforce credentials launched through Michigan Reconnect, a scholarship program for learners to pursue an associate degree or industry-recognized certificate through a community college for free or at a discounted price. This gives more Michigan learners the opportunity to return to postsecondary education and workforce training programs by leveraging tuition-free paths.

The following are examples of how MCCA’s advocacy has allowed for policy changes that encourage the changing of systems and improve the success of postsecondary education pathways.

  • Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer recently signed an executive order to establish the Michigan Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement, and Potential (MiLEAP). MCCA provided recommendations to the governor’s office for this legislation, which gives learners a path to education that is affordable and can lead to a good-paying, in-demand job.
  • MCCA also advocated for state policy to incentivize awarding credit for prior learning to support colleges in their efforts to develop equitable credit policies. Legislation passed that created a process to reimburse community colleges for credits awarded through prior learning types. This unique funding model helps incentivize greater adoption of credit for prior learning programs among community colleges.

Our investment in MCCA connects to a priority within our grantmaking to streamline key learner transitions by creating stronger, more equitable pathways to and through community college programs. This includes coordinating more effectively with employers to meet economic and workforce needs so that these pathways lead to good jobs. This can also result in learners better understanding the relationship between industry credentials and academic programs, and the options that are available to them. We’re proud to support MCCA’s impactful work and that of similar organizations working at the intersection of institutional practice and state-level policy to scale effective pathways from postsecondary education to good jobs.