In accordance with Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s alternative education initiative, several bills were introduced into the Michigan legislature last week regarding higher education.

In his State of the State address, Snyder said he aims for Michigan to become the number one state for skilled trades programs, and praised alternative education routes such as dual enrollment for high school students and apprenticeships.

Dual enrollment for high school students

State Sen. Darwin Booher (R–Evart) introduced Senate Bills 36 and 37 last week, which would allow high school students to enroll in community college courses. Should these bills pass, high school teachers could receive qualifications to teach certain college-level classes, which the students could subsequently take without traveling to a community college campus.

Booher, who is the Community Colleges chair, a subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, noted that concurrent courses were the best way to put dual enrollment into practice, as not all high school students have the luxury of commuting to community college after school.

“Part of the kids that didn’t have jobs after school or didn’t have some kind of requirement, they could go, but not every student can. A lot of them have jobs, and a lot of them have athletics,” Booher said. “This is the fair way to do it; they’re already there.”

SB-36 proposes that any “school district or public school academy may partner with 1 or more postsecondary institutions or 1 or more intermediate school districts and postsecondary institutions,” thus allowing high school students to take college classes while in high school. SB-37 does the inverse, allowing community colleges to enroll high school students.

Jason Morgan, director of government relations at Washtenaw Community College, said dual enrollment for high school students has been an option for as long as he can remember. The proposed bills, however, differ from the status quo because students would not have to travel to community colleges to gain credit.

“Dual enrollment is really beneficial for everyone involved,” Morgan said. “The community colleges get additional students, the students get college credit while they’re in high school, and the high schools get a chance to allow their students to take college classes without incurring any additional cost to the high school.”

In February 2014, the MASCO Foundation provided a $150,000 grant to establish a partnership between Ypsilanti public schools and WCC so high school students could earn an associates degree, or at least a certificate, with their diploma upon high school graduation. He noted that the providing students the option of dual enrollment also provides potential economic benefits.

“The long term direction is to encourage even more dual enrollment with community colleges, in hopes that students can save money on college right off the bat,” Morgan said.

Snyder knows the value of dual enrollment as he earned 25 credits while attending high school through dual enrollment at Kellogg Community College. These credits allowed him to earn three degrees from the University of Michigan by the time he was 23.

State Sen. Goeff Hansen (R–Hart) also introduced a bill regarding dual enrollment for high school students Jan. 28. Senate Bill 38 would allow state universities to offer academic credit for concurrent enrollment courses offered by public high schools. Employing the same concept behind SB-36 and 37, high school students then would not have to leave campus to gain credit from state universities.

As of now, Ferris State University has a concurrent enrollment program available to high schools with certified teachers. Under the proposed bill, tuition would be free to high school students and instead would be funded through the public schools.

College benefits for veterans

In the State of the State address, Snyder also highlighted the passage of the National Guard Tuition Assistance Act — which provides financial aid to members of the Michigan National Guard attending college in the state of Michigan.

On Jan. 28, State Rep. Holly Hughes (R–Montague) introduced House Bill 4060, which would further help veterans by informing them during the college admission process that they can receive credits for training completed while in the military. Veterans can submit a transcript for credits that they may have earned and receive appropriate credits from the university.

Tax credits for graduates

State Rep. Andy Schor (D–Lansing) and State Sen. Curtis Hertel, Jr. (D–East Lansing) both introduced versions of a bill that would offer students who stayed in Michigan post-graduation a tax credit worth 50 percent of their student loan payments that year.

A similar version of the bill introduced at the end of 2014 stalled, but now is being reintroduced as HB-4118. In a statement, Schor expressed confidence that passing the bill could be a bipartisan effort. Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) is a sponsor of the bill.

The proposed bill is based on the Opportunity Maine program, which allows students who graduate from Maine colleges to receive an Educational Opportunity Tax Credit.

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