Michigan’s leaders have touted a “temporary” expansion to taxpayer-funded scholarship program, but now legislators have introduced a bill that would make it permanent. The program has so far produced few results, and lawmakers seem suspiciously uninterested in finding out whether it is doing any good.
Through the Michigan Reconnect program, certain groups of Michigan residents can get all or most of their community college tuition paid for by the state. Legislators approved $70 million to lower the eligibility age for this program from 25 to 21.
There is also a bill that would make this move permanent. “If sufficient funds are appropriated to expand the reconnect program, this minimum-age criterion may be reduced to as low as 21,” SB 406 says.
Michigan Reconnect is part of Gov. Whitmer’s Sixty by 30 goal. She would like to see 60% of Michigan residents ages 25 to 64 have a certificate or degree. She would like that to happen by 2030. Will lowering the age to get tuition-free community college help get to that goal?
Lawmakers should have the answer to that question. But they don’t seem to care. Not many students have graduated with the help of the Reconnect scholarship yet, and the state isn’t collecting much data about the program’s effectiveness.
In other words, policymakers are spending more money to get to a goal, but they don’t know whether or not the spending actually leads to the goal. They could find out the answer to that question. Yet they’re going to spend more and expand program parameters without getting that answer.
The lack of results or interest in results ought to matter more. Lawmakers are forcing taxpayers to cover community college costs for people over 25 or 21, without bothering to find out whether that is a good use of money. They ought to care whether the people who participate in the program do better because of it.
Lawmakers instead are spending more on the program regardless of results. They should reconsider their Reconnect program.
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