GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Rapids Community College says they are seeing a substantial uptick in the number of people enrolling in courses over the age of 30.
They credit the increase, in part, to state programs such as Futures for Frontliners that cover the majority of tuition costs for older students.
“I never thought I would finish school or go back really, seriously until I got this opportunity,” said Thom Hunt.
Prior to the pandemic, and everything that followed in its wake, 31-year-old Thom Hunt wasn’t planning to go back to college.
But he’s found his life’s passion in the culinary arts and is now enrolled in GRCC’s Secchia Institute for Culinary Education.
“Even when I'm not at school, I'm in here in the kitchen, just trying to make more stuff. Always creating,” explained Hunt.
GRCC has seen a 22% increase in the number of students, age 30 or over, enrolling in classes -up 22% from the 2021 winter semester, and 14% higher than the pre-pandemic 2019 winter semester.
“Two state programs are playing a big role in all of this, the Michigan Reconnect and the Futures for Frontliners programs provide free tuition for anyone 25 and above who hasn't earned a degree before,” explained Dave Murray, communications director at GRCC.
Hunt, who also works at a Grand Rapids health clinic, used the Futures for Frontliners program.
“We partner with local employers. And so, we know what the needs are right here in our community so we can tailor what we teach in partnership with them to the skills that are needed right here,” Murray told FOX 17.
While the majority of his culinary courses are in-person, about 60% of the school’s courses include an online element.
“It is so rewarding for us to see people embracing these chances and moving forward with their education,” said Murray.
Hunt added, “I feel great. I feel fulfilled. I feel like I'm flourishing more than ever before.”
Applications for the state’s Futures for Frontliners program are now closed, but you can visit GRCC’s website for more information on the school’s offerings.