LMC Plays Role in ‘Free College’ Opportunity for Motivated West Michigan Students

It wasn't all just a pipe dream when Gov. Whitmer called for increased investments in education to help close the skills gap in her 2020 budget proposal.

In fact, Lake Michigan College is already playing a role in that drive as the Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development reaffirms that early college is an educational pathway that leads students to filling high-demand, high-wage careers here in Michigan.

The Governor proposed to increase the number of Michigander’s with postsecondary credentials to 60-percent by 2030, offering a debt-free solution to educate and train the state’s talent for 21st-century careers.

Stephanie Beckhorn is the Acting Director at TED. She says, “Equipping students with the skillsets they need to fill the 15,000 annual Professional Trades career openings is a priority for our state,” and adds, “Participating in early college programs provides students with a no-cost jump start on their college and career path – ensuring they’re ready to take advantage of the state’s most in-demand careers.”

Your content continues below

While they lack an actual local brick and mortar community college, students in the Early College Allegan County program have an opportunity to learn in a community college environment thanks to a new wing in their Technical Education Center modeled after higher education schools thanks to Lake Michigan College. Through a partnership with LMC, professors travel to their campus to teach their classes, making the program more accessible to students.

The three-year program allows motivated students to extend high school by one year in order to earn both their diploma and an associate degree or pre-apprenticeship with up to 62 college credits from Lake Michigan College at no cost.

Evy Houser is Dean of Early College for Allegan County, saying, “We serve seven districts and the Early College program utilizes the resource available in these communities to provide college credits to students at no cost.” Houser adds, “This is huge for our under-served populations and  first generation college students. They will be prepared to further their education or ready to enter the workforce with strengthened employability skills.”

Early college is an accessible, affordable and relevant postsecondary education that secures students with an education pathway and career goals. Upon completion of the program, students are able to transfer credits to a four-year university, continue in their apprenticeship or are ready to join the workforce.

Morgan Rapa, a senior at Otsego High School is in the Associate of Arts Program, saying, “I was initially attracted to the Early College program because of the financial benefits and small classroom setting which provides a less intimidating learning environment,” and adds, “I would suggest this program to any high school student looking to get a head start in their college career without the financial risk.”

Before they complete their senior year, students in the Machine Tool Technology program not only gain valuable industry knowledge, they also earn a pre-apprenticeship certificate and work part-time at large manufacturers such as Trans-Matic, Metal Flow, HyTech Spring & Machine and General Die & Engineering to gain first-hand, on-the-job training.

By way of example, Senior Matt Hemingway says, “I took a chance on the program because I enjoy working with my hands.”  Hemingway, who is in the Machine Tool Technology program and a part-time employee at Travis Creek Tooling in Plainwell tells us, “I love it and I’m looking forward to my future career. I have the early college program to thank for getting me on this path.”

The state needs to fill 811,000 jobs coming open through 2024, the statewide Going PRO campaign aims to attract talent to Professional Trades careers and educates job seekers of the training opportunities available in Michigan’s high-demand, high-wage career fields.

You can learn more about the Early College Allegan County program on their website at the link below:


Students, parents, educators and other influencers wanting to learn more about the educational pathways leading to high-demand, high-wage careers can use the state’s Pathfinder website. Additional information about Professional Trades careers can be found at Going-PRO.com.

The Talent and Economic Development Department of Michigan (Ted) allows the state to leverage its ability to build talent with in-demand skills while helping state businesses grow and thrive. Joining job creation and economic development efforts under one umbrella, Ted consists of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Michigan State Housing Development Authority, Michigan Strategic Fund, Talent Investment Agency and Michigan Land Bank Fast Track Authority.

Learn more about Ted at www.michigan.gov/Ted.

In the photo accompanying this story on Moody on the Market, James Page works on a CNC machine in his Early College Allegan County class. Page is in his second year in the pre-apprenticeship machining program through Lake Michigan College.