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Navigating the Future of Education: Governors’ Highlight Workforce Development in State of the State Addresses

All4Ed has been watching as Governors issue their State of the State addresses and identifying interesting patterns and focuses for the coming year in education policy.

One focus of the Governors’ State of the State addresses has been workforce development. While community colleges are not the only institution providing this education, training, and support, in most states they are the primary institution responsible for ensuring that workers have the job skills employers need.  

The need for advanced training and education continues to grow. This is important because, according to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, 80% of good-paying jobs require at least some college.  

But COVID hurt enrollment in community colleges, which showed an average decline of 10% per year between 2019 and 2022. This year, several Governors highlighted state programs that seek to reverse that trend


In her State of the State address on January 24, 2024, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer spoke of the need to broaden the vision of education beyond K through 12. 

Noting that “the best-paying jobs today and in our future economy require some education after high school,” the Governor proposed making the first two years of community college tuition-free for all high school graduates in the state. That could save the average graduate $4000 in tuition, she said.

To encourage more adults to return to community college and complete a degree or certificate, the state had previously made community college tuition-free for anyone 21 and older. The Michigan Reconnect Skills scholarship also provides up to a $1500 in state scholarship to help cover part of the tuition cost at private training schools or programs, including job training for medical techs and electricians.  All of this is part of the state’s Sixty by 30 goal: to have 60% of adults earn a post-secondary degree or skills training by 2030.

With the ongoing commitment to providing universal pre-K education for all Michigan’s children, the Governor said that the state is now educating students “from pre-K, through postsecondary, to prosperity.”


Governor Eric Holcomb’s January 9, 2024, State of the State address proposed two innovative programs that would increase the numbers of adults who completed a degree or certificate.

First, he proposed creating more three-year and associates degree options at public universities. Starting with the 2025-26 academic year, public institutions would be required to offer at least one three-year bachelor’s degree program.

Gov. Holcomb also proposed a new program aimed to assist students who drop out of college without a degree, but with potential student loan debt.  The “reverse transfer” program would allow students who have completed at least 75 credit hours at a four-year institution, but have not yet earned their bachelor’s degree, to transfer those credits to a community college to receive an associate’s degree. This would ensure they graduate with a degree that recognizes their work and credit attainment, even if they do not ultimately complete their bachelor’s degree program. There is room for growth in the state’s community college enrollment. Students attending two-year institutions make up 25% of Indiana’s higher education enrollment, which is lower than the U.S. average of 38%.

The Governor also announced the launch of One Stop to Start, which will make it easier for adults to get training for high-skill, high-wage jobs. The program provides links to tuition-free learning for short-term skills-based training and certificates, apprenticeships, and scholarships for full- or part-time college attendance.


In his January 24, 2024, State of the State address, Governor Mike Parson talked about the workforce challenges facing his state where nearly 60 percent of the workforce lacks a degree or certificate. In data from 2022, the State Higher Education Executive Officer’s Association (SHEEO) (the latest available) found that Missouri had the largest decline in enrollment in two-year colleges of any state in the country, with a 16% drop between 2021 and 2022.   

While the Governor noted that it is still possible to get a good job in Missouri without a degree, he emphasized steps the state has taken to increase workforce skills. Specifically, he highlighted several programs designed to increase enrollment and training for high-skill, high-wage jobs through the community college system and apprenticeship programs. Missouri One Start works with employers to identify job-specific skills and then train employees for those jobs. Since 2018, the program has helped train more than 173,000 workers.

A new Fast Track program provides grants to assist with coursework tuition and general fees and direct costs of apprenticeships, such as tools, books, and uniforms. In its first year, it has benefited over 1,700 students, “with more than 55 percent going into healthcare and more than two-thirds being women,” the Governor noted.

Michigan, Indiana, and Missouri are examples of states expanding educational opportunities after high school. This is critical, as according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, freshman enrollment in postsecondary education for people 20 years old and younger is more than 5% below pre-pandemic levels. For model legislation and other resources promoting college and career pathways for high school students, visit All4ed’s State Policy Center.”