Whitmer on right track with jobs training initiatives

That rarest of political circumstances occurred not many days ago in Lansing when many — certainly not all — Democrats and Republicans found an issue they could agree on.

OK, that’s something of an overstatement as the two parties do cooperate from time to time. But that cooperation is exceptional enough that when it does happen, and it involves spending substantial sums of money, we pay attention.

In this circumstance, the cooperation involves Democrats and Republicans getting behind Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s plans to provide debt-free tuition to high school graduates and older adults who want to learn new job skills.

The state’s chief executive aims to increase the number of working-age adults with a post-secondary degree or certificate to 60 percent by 2030, from 45 percent now.

Ambitious to say the least.

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce has voiced support. So have key members in the GOP leadership.

According to an Associated Press story on the issue, bills to create two programs have been introduced. Whitmer wants the GOP-led Legislature to authorize tuition-free community college or technical training for nontraditional students — those 25 and older without an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

The so-called Reconnect program would benefit an estimated 51,000 students starting this summer and cost $110 million over two years.

Then, the Opportunity Scholarship initiative would provide graduating high school students in the class of 2020 and beyond three years or 60 credit hours of tuition at a community college, with no means testing, or a two-year $2,500 annual scholarship to those attending a four-year college or university. The latter would only qualify with a minimum 3.0 GPA and a household income under $80,000.

So there’s a lot of money on the table, but a lot at stake, too. As one GOP leader put it, so many Michigan residents have, for one reason or another, drifted away from the educational process and the opportunity improved education offers, an assessment we believe is 100 percent true.

This program certainly won’t solve all of the woes but it’s a definite step in the right direction.

— The Mining Journal (Marquette)

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