MI-RAISE Design Lab: Improving Success for Adult Learners in Michigan

Michigan has made significant progress toward meeting its goal of 60 percent degree attainment by 2030; but to continue the state’s growth in attainment and meet its workforce needs, institutions across Michigan will need to prioritize opportunities for adults to reskill and/or upskill. 

In late 2023, with the generous support of the Kresge Foundation, ESG launched the Michigan – Regional Adult Initiative for Skills and Education (MI-RAISE) Design Lab to support colleges and universities across Michigan to increase the enrollment and success of adult learners pursuing programs of study that lead to employment in high-demand, high-wage fields. 

Higher education has an opportunity to support regional economic priorities by more purposefully improving the success of a growing student population: learners over the age of 25. As workplace needs shift, developing a meaningful career with family-sustaining wages increasingly requires a postsecondary credential; yet millions of adults across the country, including over 1.6 million in Michigan, have not earned a credential beyond high school. Further, demographic shifts and a projected 15 percent decline in “traditional age” Michigan college students (the looming “enrollment cliff”) require higher education leaders to think critically about how to best serve adult learners on their campuses in programs that fill regional talent demands.

Leaders in Michigan recognize this challenge and opportunity. In the 2022-2023 state budget, $9.2 million was allocated to establish the Michigan Center for Adult College Success (MCACS) and provide supports and Innovation Investment Award grants to colleges for focused work on adult credential attainment. In addition, the 2023-2024 budget included roughly $26 million for a College Success Fund to support retention and completion at Michigan institutions. These funds will be released through a competitive grant process in 2024. 

Through the MI-RAISE Design Lab, ESG and MCACS will work with a subset of Michigan colleges to align their efforts to serve adult learners more effectively and ensure that they can strategically leverage these funding opportunities for maximum impact. Over the course of the one-year engagement, participating colleges will assess their local economies, their market for adult learners, and their capacity to serve adult learners, and will ultimately use those analyses to design new approaches to serve adult learners. 

ESG is leading this work in partnership with MCACS, TalentFirst, Sova, and CollegeAPP, and collaborating with the Michigan Office of Sixty by 30, the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN), the Michigan Association for State Universities (MASU), and the Michigan Community College Association (MCCA).

Participating colleges include: