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‘Our community is coming back to school’: GRCC sees 7.1% increase in summer enrollment

GRCC President Dr. Pink believes enrollment increase is due to Michigan Reconnect and Future of Frontliners state programs
Posted at 9:28 PM, Jul 23, 2021

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Rapids Community College is having a good summer.

Last week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that the state was awarded a $10,000,000 grant for skilled trade apprenticeships. GRCC has 800 students involved in their apprenticeship programs who may benefit from those funds.

Friday morning, GRCC announced that they were awarded grant money from the legendary heavy metal band Metallica for its welding program.

READ MORE: GRCC awarded third grant from Metallica to support skilled trades training

To top it off, their summer enrollment has increased 7.1% since last summer when community colleges as a whole saw a 9.5% drop in enrollment, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

GRCC President Dr. Bill Pink added that the increase is higher than pre-pandemic levels.

“It’s relieving because what that means to us is that our community is coming back to school,” said Dr. Pink during an interview with FOX 17 on Wednesday. “One thing the pandemic did to many people is that it just caused them to say, ‘You know what, I’m going to sit this out. I’m going to wait till this wave has passed.’”

This summer, it did. Dr. Pink said 400 people were currently enrolled in their Michigan Reconnect program, which makes GRCC tuition free for students who are 25 years old or older and without a degree. Moreover, there’s 1,000 people enrolled in their Futures for Frontliners program, which awards essential workers who worked during the pandemic with free tuition as well.

“When the state shut down back in March [and] April, when the state shut down again in November last year, these were individuals that were still working to help keep us going,” Dr. Pink said. “So, what the governor and the state did is they said those are folks that we want to reward.”

Dr. Pink added that affordability is a major reason why they saw an increase, considering student loan debt is in the trillions nationwide. So, GRCC froze tuition rates for the upcoming academic year and changed their parking plan so that students only have to pay one time while they’re on campus.

Also, he believes First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, who's a community college professor herself, will help give their industry the boost and visibility they need to get the enrollment number back up or even higher.

“It’s nice that a community college faculty member has dinner on a regular basis with the president of the United States,” Dr. Pink said. “So, what she helps the president and others on that administration understand, she helps them to understand us because in many ways people have this perception of 'here’s what community college is,' but it’s truly so much more.”

Dr. Biden visited the campus back in May, promoting vaccinations. Dr. Pink said he’s grateful she made GRCC a part of her travels that day.

He hopes others will consider the school for their educational journey.

“You can finish somewhere else as far as this whole idea of bachelors, masters, PhD, finish in those other places and finish strong, but this is a valuable next for them,” said Dr. Pink. “They want to be a culinarian. They want to be in manufacturing. They want to be in healthcare. These are degrees and credentials that get them to the next job.”

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