By JERRY WOLFFE
As more than 750,000 Michigan public college students prepare to start a new school year, older adults are finding it harder than ever to participate, a new report says.
Michigan offers no financial aid grants to attend a public university or community college for those who graduated from high school more than 10 years ago.
Two of Michigan’s three higher education grants are aimed at students who graduated a decade or less ago, according to a new policy brief released Wednesday by the Michigan League for Public Policy. And the third one can only be used at private institutions, which are generally more expensive.
“We know that postsecondary education is so important in today’s economy,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “Helping older workers sharpen their skills or pursue studies leading to in-demand jobs will help Michigan’s economy.’’
The League’s report, State Financial Aid Leaves Adult Learners Behind, shows that financial aid grants that once helped older students have disappeared as Michigan made recession-era cuts to higher education. Those eliminated were the Adult Part-Time Grant, the Michigan Education Opportunity Grant, the Michigan Nursing Scholarship and a state Work-Study program.
That leaves three major grants: The Tuition Incentive Program, aimed at students from low-income families, and the Michigan Competitive Scholarship, which are only available for 10 years after high school graduation while the third, the Michigan Tuition Grant, does not set a post-graduation limit but is only available for attending private, not-for-profit institutions.
“Leaving older workers out of financial aid programs is a flaw in Michigan’s workforce development strategy that needs to be fixed,’’ Jacobs said. “ The health of our economy depends on workers getting the skills they need to become productive employees and support their families.’’
(The report may be found online: http://www.mlpp.org/state-financial-aid-leaves-adult-learners-behind)
Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence and advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at (586) 263-8950.