Debt forgiveness program to start at Henry Ford, other local colleges

April 30, 2019

Press and Guide

The Detroit Regional Chamber with higher education institution partners Henry Ford College (HFC), Oakland University (OU), and Wayne State University (WSU) announced an innovative new program that will remove a primary barrier to degree completion for thousands of adults in the Detroit region.

The program targets the 693,000 adults across the Detroit region with college credits, but no degree, by offering debt forgiveness of previously incurred educational debt at WSU, OU and HFC provided that students enroll at any of these three institutions, remain current on their new higher education financial obligations, and make progress towards degree or certificate completion.

This effort is part of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s region-wide goal to improve the postsecondary attainment rate from 40% to 60% by 2030. Targeting the 693,000 adults with some college but no degree is a prime opportunity to progress toward the 60% goal.

WSU, OU and HFC have jointly agreed to the following principles:

• Unlimited. There is no cap to the number of students that can participate.

• Flexible. Both community college (maximum debt forgiveness of one half of total outstanding student debt) and four-year university programs (maximum $1,500 of debt forgiveness) included.

• Reciprocity. Participating institutions agree to share academic transcripts with other participating institutions for students enrolled in the program, if students agree to enroll in a payment plan.

“One of the most effective ways to increase our region’s education attainment level is to remove barriers to those adults who already have some college credits to be able to complete their degree or certificate program. This multi-institution debt forgiveness program will be an important element of moving our region’s educational attainment rate to the 60% goal,” noted Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Chamber.

View the full article here

Michigan has 1.6M college dropouts. Debt forgiveness may lure them back.

April 30, 2019

Bridge Magazine

Chastity Pratt


Henry Ford College and Oakland University are set to announce Tuesday that they will join Wayne State in a cooperative agreement to offer college debt forgiveness incentives. Any student who takes advantage of up to $1,500 in debt forgiveness would be able to transfer between the colleges.

The initiative is part of an effort announced by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and supported by the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce to improve the state’s post-secondary education attainment rate from 40 percent to 60 percent by 2030.

The Detroit Regional Chamber is assisting with the outreach and reconnecting former students with the debt forgiveness process.

“One of the most effective ways to increase our region’s education attainment level is to remove barriers,” said Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the chamber.

“This multi-institution debt forgiveness program will be an important element of moving our region’s educational attainment rate to the 60 percent goal.”

View the full article here

3 metro Detroit colleges to forgive debt for returning students to complete degree

April 30, 2019

Detroit Free Press

David Jesse


In metro Detroit alone, about 693,000 adults attended some college but didn’t graduate. Some 13,000 of those went to Wayne State, while 11,600 went to Henry Ford and another 8,300 attended Oakland.

Records show that 25% of students at the three schools — 24,016 students — who stopped going left with some sort of financial hold on their accounts.

The plans are being promoted by the Detroit Regional Chamber.

“It’s a great way to ease the path back into college,” said Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the chamber. “If we create a lot of jobs, but don’t have local people who can take those jobs, it’s not as good for the region.”

The plan also meshes with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s overall plan to increase college attainment across the state, said Brandy Johnson, adviser, postsecondary education and workforce development to Whitmer.

“It sends the message that we need the talent and are willing to do what we can to help,” she said. “It’s really signaling to the population that we want them to get these” degrees and credentials.

View the full article here

Metro Detroit colleges offer debt relief to former students

April 30, 2019

The Detroit News

Breana Noble

Students who attended but did not graduate from three Metro Detroit higher education institutions will have the chance to cash in on a new debt forgiveness program to go back to school.

The program, led by the Detroit Regional Chamber, is for the 693,000 adults across southeast Michigan with college credits but no degree and is aimed at improving the region’s postsecondary attainment rate from 44%. It is one of the first multi-institutional regional debt forgiveness programs in the country.

So far, Wayne State University, Oakland University and Henry Ford College have agreed to participate.

“We have a large number of adults who started but never got a degree,” said Greg Handel, the chamber’s vice president of education and talent. “A large percentage stopped because they had financial issues. We thought we would convene this partnership to try and improve the educational outcomes for the region.”

Community college programs, like Henry Ford, are offering maximum forgiveness of one-half of total outstanding student debt. Four-year university programs, like Oakland and Wayne State, are offering a maximum of $500 of debt forgiveness per semester for up to three semesters.

View the full article here

Debt Forgiveness Programs Coming To Three Major Colleges In Metro Detroit

April 30, 2019

WWJ News Radio


Both Wayne State University and Oakland University are willing to waive up to $1,500 off of the debt owed, while Henry Ford College will forgive up to one half of a students debt.

Detroit Regional Chamber Vice-President Greg Handel says they want to improve the region’s post-secondary attainment rate, which now stands at 40 percent.

“We wanted to being a survey of our business members in the near future,” said Handle, “to start to find out what kind practices they have in place in terms of tuition support for their employees, and encourage more companies to offer tuition supports and other kind of supports to help their employees to get degrees.”

Wayne State has used a debt forgiveness program called ‘Warrior Way Back’ which has benefitted the 100 or so students involved, leaving University President M. Roy Wilson encouraged.

“I think that once it’s up to scale, said Wilson, “that it could be thousands, maybe tens of thousands of students, could benefit.”

View the full article here

Lawn Academy Students Explore Exciting Careers During Chamber’s Youth Day

By Daniel A. Washington

For the first time ever, the Detroit Regional Chamber welcomed 20 students from The Lawn Academy along with more than 10 local professionals for a day of learning and career exploration, on April 27.

“We decided this year to do things differently,” said Jennifer Stark, human resources specialist for the Chamber. “In addition to having Chamber employees bring in their children for the day, we dedicated some time and resources to a special group of students to come learn about the Chamber and experience what it is we have to offer.”

Founded in 2009 by Eric Miller and his wife, The Lawn Academy, a nonprofit organization, provides African-American male youth, ages 12 to 18, a chance to serve their community through lawn care service while partaking in a college immersion program. Students serviced more than 500 lawns last year while helping more than 140 seniors, veterans and persons with disabilities across Detroit.

“We aim to help these young men take the next step by giving back to their community while staying focused on their individualistic paths to higher education and success,” Miller said.


Students spent the better part of the day touring the Chamber offices while stopping and talking to employees about their job functions, engaging with several small groups of professionals about career opportunities, and playing a trivia game about the Chamber and best practices for social media.

Visiting professionals and Chamber staff led meaningful conversations about careers in law, finance and information technology. Other companies and organizations that were represented included Develop Detroit, University of Michigan, Henry Ford College, Century Partners and Wayne County Community College District.

“We are really appreciative of the Chamber and how it opened its doors to our young men,” said Miller. “The day was just flat-out awesome.”

For more information or to support the The Lawn Academy click here.

Daniel A. Washington is an integrated marketing specialist at the Detroit Regional Chamber.

More from Daniel. A. Washington:

Cracking the Millennial Code

Millennial Truth: A Closer Look at How Gen-Y Work in Today’s Workforce

Help Wanted: Closing Michigan’s Skilled Trades Gap

By Melissa Anders

Construction companies are struggling to find enough qualified skilled trades workers to complete projects in and around the Detroit region — a problem that has rallied businesses, government, educational institutions and labor unions alike. While the issue is not unique to Michigan, it is particularly evident in Detroit, where construction is picking up and massive projects like Little Caesars Arena and the Gordie Howe International Bridge have increased demand.

The shortage means that some projects may take longer to complete and could cost more as supply and demand drive up labor costs, said Todd Sachse, CEO of Detroit-based Sachse Construction. He explained that as older tradesmen retire, there are not enough younger people to take their place.

There are more than 8,300 skilled trades job openings across all industries in Michigan, and more than 6,200 are expected to be available each year through 2022, according to Pure Michigan Talent Connect.

The company is working to attract new talent to the construction industry through various efforts. Maibach pointed to two main reasons behind the shortage: Many workers left the industry in the wake of massive declines during the Great Recession; and skilled trades suffer from a negative perception as a “dirty job” and the only way to be successful is to get a four-year degree.

It is hard to convince parents who would rather spend thousands of dollars to send their children to four-year schools than support a pathway to the skilled trades, said Parmeshwar Coomar, dean of the Applied Science and Engineering Technology Department at Monroe County Community College (MCCC).

But skilled trades are not menial jobs, he said. They require postsecondary education and pay good, living wages. Pay for skilled trades workers vary by experience and specific trade. For example, salaries range from $35,000 to $75,000 for ironworkers, sheet metal workers and plumbers/pipefitters, according to

Apprentices earn pay and benefits while obtaining schooling and on-the-job training that can lead to full-time careers and eventually journey person status.

“You don’t have to be pounding nails for the rest of your life,” Coomar added. Numerous skilled trades students have gone on to earn their associate and bachelor’s degrees and are now leaders at their respective companies.

Monroe offers programs in welding, design drafting and construction management, among other trades. It has 83 apprentices practicing in various trades this semester, and Coomar said he hopes construction companies will come forward to start apprentice partnerships as well.

Just as technological innovation is impacting the skilled trades, education needs to be nimble and adaptive to industry needs, said Michael Nealon, vice president of academic affairs at Henry Ford College (HFC) in Dearborn. He said there needs to be a paradigm shift toward “just-in-time” instruction that allows for students to begin working while continuing to learn new skills.


Leaders at HFC want to see more employers partner with the college and embrace an“earn and learn” approach — that is, to hire students before they finish school, but still allow them to continue their education while employed. They would also like to see more employers stepping up as instructors. Labor unions need to participate and contribute as well, Nealon said.

“It really needs to be a community-wide effort,” said Gary Saganski, HFC’s director of academic relations. Saganski said there is still plenty of work to do in order to close the talent gap in Michigan.

“I do believe we are beginning to move the needle by way of creating employment pathways, competency-based technology programs targeted for these occupations, and local and regional partnerships between the community, education, industry and government,” he said.

Dannis Mitchell, Barton Malow’s diversity manager, is working at the grassroots level. She said for some interested candidates, understanding the skilled trades and job requirements can be difficult. There are nearly 20 different trades, ranging from ironworker to design engineer, available in Michigan.

“People usually blank stare when asked, ‘What kind of construction do you want to get into?’” Mitchell said.

She has spent the last year gathering information to disseminate to prospective candidates to limit confusion during the decision-making process. Sachse Construction is also working with community partners to bolster the talent pipeline. The company and more than 35 of its subcontractors worked with Junior Achievement of Southeast Michigan last October to host a Construction Academy for 500 metro Detroit students.

“The event was a huge success, and we’re looking to host similar educational opportunities in the future, so that we can help young people learn as early as possible that this is a plausible and sustainable career option,”Sachse said.

Melissa Anders is a metro Detroit native and freelance writer.

Read more from this issue below: 

Detroit: A City on the Rise

The Ilitch Touch: Transforming Detroit’s Downtown

Under Construction: Michigan’s Build-To-Suit Market




American Society of Employers (ASE) announces the Michigan HR Executives of the Year for 2016; honorees will be celebrated on Nov. 3 at ASE’s Annual Summit

The American Society of Employers (ASE), one of the nation’s oldest and largest employer associations, is pleased to announce the honorees for its annual Michigan HR Executive of the Year for 2016. Through a nomination process overseen by ASE, candidates are selected in four categories and recognized for their admirable work that distinguishes them in the field of Human Resource Management. The category winners are:

• Adam Jeffries, Vice President of Human Resources, North America, Faurecia North America – Organizations with over 1,000 Michigan employees
• Brenda Gallick, Director of Team Member Success, Billhighway – Organizations with fewer than 1,000 Michigan employees
• Cynthia M. Glass, Ed.D., Vice President of Administrative Service and Human Resources, Henry Ford College – Health and Human Services organizations with 500 or more Michigan employees
• Danielle Crane, Chief Talent Officer, GreenPath Financial Wellness – Health and Human Services organizations with fewer than 500 Michigan employees

“ASE congratulates all the honorees and thanks them for their dedication to the HR profession,” Mary E. Corrado, ASE president and CEO said. “Their work is highly regarded by their peers and has had a significant impact on the companies they work for.”

The Michigan HR Executives of the Year for 2016 will receive their awards at ASE’s thirteenth Annual Summit, which celebrates not only the honorees but the pivotal role of the HR profession in Michigan’s business and non-profit communities. The ASE Annual Summit will be held Thursday, Nov. 3 from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Detroit Athletic Club.

ASE’s 2016 Annual Summit is open to both ASE members and non-members. Tickets are $99 per person, $539 for groups of six, and $639 for groups of eight. The evening includes networking, cocktails, small plates, and dessert. To purchase tickets or for registration information, please call 248-223-8006 or visit the ASE website.

About the American Society of Employers (ASE) – a Centennial Organization

The American Society of Employers (ASE) is a not-for-profit trade association providing people-management information and services to Michigan employers. Since 1902, member organizations have relied on ASE to be their single, cost-effective source for information and support, helping to grow their bottom line by enhancing the effectiveness of their people. Learn more about ASE at