Some community colleges in Michigan are seeing an increase in enrollment thanks to state programs like Futures for Frontliners and Michigan Reconnect.
The pandemic is playing a role in the increase of people getting back into the classroom. Monroe County Community College is one of just three community colleges in Michigan that have experienced a double-digit enrollment increase.
Many young workers during the pandemic have considered changing their careers because the pandemic changed their outlook on life.
The pandemic altered how people learned, communicated and worked.
It also changed the way people thought about their life, personally, and professionally, and what's important.
Mira South is a student at Monroe County Community College; she's a single mother to 11-year-old twins. She wants them to have a bright future.
She wanted to do something different after working for a high school where she was working as a teacher's assistant for K-12 students, motivating them through the pandemic. She says the job was rewarding and she has always had a passion to work with children, making an impact on their lives.
But Mira wanted to pursue her dream, so she went back to school.
"I felt that it was important for me to go back and get my education and to be an example to my children,” she said.
She's now getting her degree in early childcare and business management.
"My end goal is to own a youth center," she said.
Thankfully through Michigan Reconnect, students 25 and older could have applied to attend community college for free. It was funded with $30 million from the state, which is applied to the tuition, and Pell grants after mandatory fees, which was passed by Governor Whitmer and a bi-partisan group of legislatures.
The goal of the program is to have nearly 60 percent of Michiganders with a post secondary degree by 2030. Nearly 170,000 people applied, shattering the 60,000 applicant goal.
The Future for Frontliners was another program which offered essential workers similar tuition-free benefits.
President of Monroe County Community College, Dr. Kojo Quartey, says they've seen many students decide to come back to school, 50 percent of the classes are in-person. The other half is online.
"Another reason for students coming to us is because they can join us remotely," said Quartey.
Many community colleges like Wayne County Community College District and Monroe County Community College are seeing an increase in people going into trade schools to become welders, plumbers, and construction workers.
They're also seeing an increase in people going into the technology field.
Marvez Bryant just got out of the United States Marine Corps after spending four years traveling the world, stationed in Norway to Japan.
"I just felt like it was time for a change. So I came home," said Bryant.
He currently works at a gas station, but hopes one day he will be a leader in the business community of Detroit.
He is now going back to school at Wayne County Community College District to get his degree in business and international business.
"College is a good way to ... let me get a career change or let me get a different aspect on the world and to learn something, whether for your next career or to be in the know of something," he said.
And for Mira, like so many others, they want a change to better themselves while at the same time helping others and giving back to their communities.
“I just worked heavily, I just worked, worked worked. And I’m like, ‘you know, if I can put all this work into someone else’s company, into someone else, I can do it for myself,” said Mira South.