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Michigan schools kick off Michigan College Month amid falling enrollment rates and worker shortages

Michigan State University building with royal blue overlay and teal MCAN logo in the top left corner

LANSING, Mich. — Imagine if 100% of Michigan’s high school seniors completed a college application. What kind of impact could it make on the state’s falling college enrollment rates and vast worker shortages?

With those goals in mind, Michigan College Access Network kicked off Michigan College Month on Oct. 1, with nearly 300 high schools participating statewide. Michigan College Month, as proclaimed by Gov. Whitmer, is part of the American College Application Campaign, a national initiative with the goal to provide every graduating high school senior the opportunity to apply to college and for financial aid.

“Navigating the path to college can be intimidating, and Michigan College Month is just the start of our year-round effort to ensure that every graduating senior gets the support they need to submit at least one college application and complete the FAFSA," said Ryan Fewins-Bliss, MCAN executive director.

In 2020, 43,454 college applications were submitted to 83 higher education institutions by more than 26,757 high school seniors who participated in Michigan College Month events.

This year, partner schools throughout the state are offering activities to guide high school seniors through completing a college application or applying for financial aid. Additionally, high schools will begin to engage underclassmen in thinking about the steps to college so that they can be prepared before their senior year. Many Michigan colleges also will collaborate with high schools to waive application fees or other financial barriers that may hold students back from pursuing education beyond high school.

Twelve colleges and universities, including Michigan State University and Wayne State University, will offer free applications during October for Michigan College Month, joining the 59 colleges and universities offering free applications year-round.

Michigan College Month is one of the three primary initiatives of Michigan College Access Network’s College Bound Michigan campaign, which brings together different components to help ensure college preparedness and success for Michigan students.

"Michigan College Month kicks off our school's participation in three statewide initiatives that staff, students and families have come to expect each year," said Joan Helwig, school counselor at Marlette Junior/Senior High School and MCAN's 2020 College Access Impact Awards winner of the Chief Mate Award. "MCAN’s mission and ongoing support in providing resources to help implement College Bound Michigan is what makes it possible for me to offer game-changing opportunities to our students as they continue on their college-going journeys."

Michigan College Month allows students to focus on solidifying where and what they want to study and submitting college applications during the month of October. In November, College Bound Michigan transitions into the College Cash Campaign, where students work to complete the FAFSA to secure scholarships, grants and additional aid opportunities. As graduation approaches, the focus moves to College Decision Day in May, a time to celebrate students and their postsecondary education plans. When these efforts are brought together, students across Michigan are more likely to succeed. These programs are aligned with the State of Michigan’s goal of Sixty by 30 — 60% college attainment for Michigan residents by 2030 —which is designed to meet the needs of tomorrow’s economy.

"As we work toward Sixty by 30, we must ensure that all students — especially low-income students, first-generation college-going students and students of color — have access to postsecondary degrees and certificates that lead to viable career paths and economic independence,” said Fewins-Bliss.

Throughout the College Bound Michigan cycle, MCAN provides resources and materials to school counselors and educators. This year, for example, MCAN has compiled the Michigan Institution Updates website, which gives current info on financial aid, testing requirements, COVID-19 policies and more for 84 Michigan colleges and universities.

To learn more about Michigan College Month, visit


Quotes from counselors from across the state:


Stephanie Pitcher, Clinton Township

“MCAN resources help us promote Michigan College Month to our students and help create a college-going atmosphere within our building," said Stephanie Pitcher, school counselor at Chippewa Valley High School. "The fee waiver codes are particularly helpful, since many of our students cannot afford to pay college application fees. We like the promotional materials and use them in our messages to parents and students to try to encourage them throughout the process.”


Jenny Bierwagen, Niles

"Michigan College Month and all of the College Bound Michigan components provide us with a structure that has become routine for our students," said Jenny Bierwagen, school counselor at Niles High School. "Even younger students recognize what is going on with our seniors so that when it is their turn, they already know what to expect. This year I have more seniors that already have their applications out the door than ever before, and I believe this is because of the work our college adviser has done to prepare them for all the things senior year brings."


Susy Talentino, Sault Ste. Marie

"With MCAN's guidance, we have become proactive when helping our seniors apply to college," said Susy Talentino, school counselor at Sault Area High School and Career Center. "Instead of it being an anxiety-inducing experience, we've turned it into a month of fun events, including a college fair and in-person and virtual college visits where students' minds are opened to possibilities they hadn't considered. Instead of fearing they can't afford college, they learn they can go to college and come out debt free!"

Hundreds of Michigan high schools will work to increase the number of students applying for college throughout October