SMC Guarantee aims to provide financial support to students of all ages

DOWAGIAC – Over the last year, the state of Michigan implemented Futures For Frontliners and the Michigan ReConnect program to aid in allowing frontline workers from the COVID-19 pandemic and residents over 25 years old a chance to get a college education. Now, Southwestern Michigan College’s President Joe Odenwald is going to be launching a program called the “SMC Guarantee” to help as many residents as possible have a chance to get a post-secondary education.

With the SMC Guarantee, Odenwald wants to focus on community members reaching a higher educational attainment, to help improve their options and quality of life. The SMC Guarantee is a program he hopes will help to capture all others who are interested in enrolling in a certificate or degree program through the college — even if they do not meet the requirements of the Futures for Frontliners or Michigan ReConnect programs.

The two state led programs have proven beneficial for the college, with SMC experiencing an uptick in applications.

“This is a good time to be at SMC,” Odwenwald said. “We have about 200 to 300 ‘frontliners’ currently enrolled. It’s been wildly successful.”

However, those two programs have certain parameters. For Michigan ReConnect, students must be over the age of 25, be a Michigan resident for a year or more, have a high school diploma and have not yet completed a college degree.

With the SMC Guarantee, Odenwald wanted to give the options back to students of all ages. There are no age restrictions on the program. The program is also not merit based and will not have a GPA requirement, though students will need to show an improvement through enrollment. Students will also need to be enrolled with a minimum of nine credit hours. The program will be available to new students, and returning students who have not been enrolled in the past five years.

In return, the SMC Guarantee will help to build on available financial aid available to students by providing scholarships. In-district students, who live in Cass County, or in Keeler or Hamilton townships in Van Buren County, will be eligible for a $1,000 annual scholarship. Out-of-district students will be eligible for a $600 annual scholarship. The scholarships are split evenly between the fall and spring semesters.

Odenwald said more details on the SMC Guarantee will roll out this week through the college, and will be available online the first week of March.

“This just feels right in my stomach,” Odenwald said.

With community college enrollment down nationwide, Odenwald said he hoped this action by the college would help close the financial gap on the way to attaining a higher education.

“I hope this will help people see that we are here and ready to help out with their next step,” Odenwald said.

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