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New Michigan Program Gives Degree-Seekers Chance To Earn Free College Credits

August 18, 2020 by Gaspard Le Dem
(Photo by Dan McCue)

A new state initiative launched last week by the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity allows residents to earn college credits at state institutions at no cost, and without needing to take coursework.

Through a partnership with two educational non-profits, the state will offer free online preparatory courses for exams through the College Level Examination Program. 

The tests allow students to qualify for low-level credits at participating colleges and universities, potentially saving them time and money by skipping some introductory coursework required to get an advanced degree.

Modern States Education Alliance, a non-profit education alliance dedicated to making college accessible to lower-income students, will provide the preparatory courses through its website. The organization has also committed to paying for 10,000 CLEP exams for Michigan residents in the next year. 

“With activities cancelled and social distancing guidelines in place, we are seeing many individuals turn to Modern States, which is always open, to further their education while also occupying their time at home,” said Steve Klinsky, founder and CEO of Modern States, in a statement. “The sustained growth of the program speaks to the need for online pathways to higher education and new ways to support individuals who want to attain their educational goals.”

The initiative is part of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s ongoing push to tackle a growing talent shortage in Michigan’s workforce. In 2019, Whitmer launched the Sixtyby30 program with the goal to increase the number of Michigan residents with postsecondary degrees to 60% by the year 2030. 

The state’s higher education achievement rate, which hovers at roughly 45% for adults over age 25, currently lags behind that of many of its midwestern neighbors. 

“Our state’s economic competitiveness and earning potential of our residents is directly linked to education,” said Jeff Donofrio, director of Michigan’s Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. “Earning college credit, certificates and degrees during difficult economic times will help create new career pathways for individuals and help Michiganders increase their earning potential.”

In April, Whitmer announced an initiative to provide tuition-free college for essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic. The proposal, called “Futures for Frontliners” has yet to be approved by the state legislature.

CLEP exams cost around $85 and are administered by the College Board, the organization that oversees standardized testing for college admissions. The tests cover intro-level college courses on subjects like English, Math or Biology, and are accepted at 2,900 colleges and universities across the country.

“We are delighted to partner with Modern States and Michigan to provide opportunities for Michigan students to earn college credit through CLEP exams, which propel them on the path to a college degree and career success,” said David Coleman, CEO of College Board. “We applaud Gov. Whitmer’s bold Sixtyby30 initiative and look forward to continuing to work with the state in support of Michigan students.”

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