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Lansing man calls Michigan Reconnect an ‘almost too-good-to-be-true opportunity’

The Michigan Reconnect program offers hope for Shabaka Bailey during the pandemic.

Shabaka Bailey was down and out.

He lost two good-paying jobs due to COVID-19-related layoffs and business closings, which left him worried about how to raise his two kids with no income.

Then his luck changed by what he now calls an “almost too-good-to-be-true opportunity.”

Bailey learned about the Michigan Reconnect program through a career coach at the Capital Area Michigan Works! agency in Lansing.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer joined with Republican and Democratic legislators Feb. 2 to announce the launch of the $30 million Michigan Reconnect program, the largest effort in state history to ensure more than 4.1 million Michiganders who are 25 or older and do not have a college degree will have an opportunity to earn a tuition-free associate degree or skills certificate.

Michigan Reconnect will pay the cost of tuition for eligible adults who want to pursue an associate degree or skills certificate at their in-district community college.

Now that he’s eligible for Michigan Reconnect, Bailey said he is even more eagerly looking for work after receiving layoffs last summer from a lumberyard and a local restaurant that closed due to COVID-19.

“It’s hard right now with the pandemic,” said Bailey, who is the father of a 5-year-old son, Josiah, and 1-year-old daughter, Journi.

“I had thought about going to Lansing Community College to get my associate degree,” he said. “But I couldn’t afford to pay the cost of tuition and still support my kids at the same time. Michigan Reconnect is a great opportunity for me to pursue my dream now.

“I plan to enroll at LCC and begin their aviation program,” Bailey added. “I want to become an aviation technician and work on plane engines. I think that’s a good career for me that will allow me to make something of myself.”

Eligible Michiganders can submit applications at Michigan.gov/Reconnect. The application takes less than five minutes to complete and can be done on a mobile device.

Reconnect scholarships are accepted by all Michigan community colleges and are even available to eligible adults who are already enrolled in their local community college. The program pays the remaining balance of tuition and mandatory fees after other state and federal financial aid have been applied. For those who choose to attend an out-of-district community college, Reconnect will pay the in-district portion of tuition.

The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) is administering Reconnect in partnership with the Michigan Department of Treasury.

To be eligible for Michigan Reconnect, you must:

  • Be at least 25 years old when you apply
  • Have lived in Michigan for a year or more
  • Have a high school diploma
  • Have not yet completed a college degree (associate or bachelor’s)

Eligible Michiganders can submit applications at Michigan.gov/Reconnect.

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