New state budget includes free community college tuition for high school graduates

CLINTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WXYZ) — High school graduates in the state of Michigan will now be able to attend their local community college tuition-free.

It’s part of Michigan’s $19 billion school aid budget for fiscal year 2025, which is just a fraction of the state’s $82.5 billion overall budget that was approved in Lansing on June 27.

The governor says the new program will benefit more than 18,000 students.

“In our next budget, let’s make the first two years of community college in Michigan free for all high school graduates,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said during her 2024 State of the State address on Jan. 24.

You can watch Whitmer’s State of the State address in the video below:

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer delivers 2024 State of the State Address

The idea was met with applause by Democrats during the speech and is now a reality. Michigan high school graduates can earn an associate’s degree or skills certificate from their local community college for free. The program only covers the cost of tuition within the district.

“We’re very excited,” said Jim Sawyer, president of Macomb Community College. “Obviously, anything that really makes college more affordable for our students is something we’re very supportive of.”


Sawyer says the school hopes thousands of its students will benefit like the thousands who have benefited from a similar program called Michigan Reconnect, which offers free in-district community college tuition for students 25 and older. It has been temporarily reduced to age 21.

“Some high school graduates never see college as part of their future,” Sawyer said. “Maybe they grew up in families where no one went to college, so they don’t even think it’s attainable. So when they hear the term ‘free,’ it suddenly opens their eyes.”

Whitmer’s office estimates that 18,000 students will benefit from this new change, saving each of them nearly $5,000 per year.

“It would have saved me a lot of money,” said Salvatore Cipriano, a current student at Macomb Community College. “Money is a big barrier, especially for young people.”

Sawyer says previous programs like Michigan Reconnect helped drive a slight increase in enrollment at Macomb Community College, and he hopes this new promise to high school graduates will do the same.

“We were up a little bit last year, so we hope to see something similar this year,” Sawyer said. “We certainly benefit from tuition, but the most important thing is giving students the opportunity to attend college.”

As part of this budget, there is also $1,000 available for students who qualify for the Pell Grant. The money goes toward additional expenses, such as textbooks and transportation.