Michigan College Access Network 2020 Annual Report

Letter from the Executive Director

Dear friends,

In 2020, MCAN turned 10.

We adapted, we evolved, and we met challenges we could have never anticipated.

MCAN has always been known for being bold and innovative and having a high tolerance for risk, and we took that into 2020 while other organizations were hunkering down. We opened ourselves up and continued to try big, new ideas to respond to the pandemic and emerging needs across Michigan. In the College Completion Corps’ inaugural year, 23 coaches supported students on 18 college campuses, including two of Michigan’s tribal colleges. We distributed more than $1.5 million in grants to schools, colleges, and other community organizations, including $625,000 in COVID-19 response funds.

And that was just in the span of 12 months. Where do you even begin to unpack a decade of impact?

I am in a fortunate position to lead this organization at such a critical time and reflect not only on our origin, but on all that is ahead of us in the next 10 years.


For us, it’s always been about increasing postsecondary attainment in Michigan, promoting equity, and building the network of partners committed to expanding college access. From the origin of MCAN to the latest initiatives, we have never stopped working together to ensure that every student in our state has the opportunity to attend college—especially low-income students, first-generation college-going students and students of color.

As a consultant, staff member, and now, executive director, I have always been proud of the authentic way that we have engaged partners across the state and country to increase postsecondary attainment. Building strong relationships, emphasizing mutual respect, and fostering consistent and ongoing communication have made those partnerships possible. From the beginning, it was essential that we honored those who had been working in this space long before we came along. We didn't invent this work; we're merely helping to organize and strengthen it. We found ways to collaborate with those who came before us, to draw from their expertise and experience.

Philanthropic Support

The strength of those collaborations has allowed us to continually grow our budget as we develop new programs and respond to the emerging needs of the field. With the generous support of philanthropic organizations, we have leveraged the State’s $3 million investment with an additional $5 million, creating a true public-private partnership. Our funding partners have been alongside us in our decade-long journey, providing the necessary resources to amplify equity, utilize data, and keep students at the forefront of every decision we make.

Looking Ahead

In fall 2020, there was a 9.2% decline in Michigan students’ college enrollment compared to the previous year. As you likely know, college enrollment in Michigan and across the United States looks much worse than previous years for all of our students, but it’s the widening of existing inequities that has me most alarmed. Our MCAN team has been committed to creating and fueling critical conversations surrounding the college enrollment crisis so that we are not confronting these challenges after it’s too late. The pandemic has created a pinch in the college pipeline at a time when we need to dramatically widen it to increase the number of Michigan students enrolling in, persisting through, and completing college. We now have to get better, and not just better than it is currently, but better than it was prior to the pandemic. If not, we will find ourselves in a post-pandemic world without the talent to grow businesses, the economy and our communities. And, worst of all, students will be left without viable career paths to provide economic independence.

As challenging as it is, our organizational culture and strategy have propelled us to this moment, and proven effective in informing the way we embrace challenges and sustain change. Your partnership and collaboration have made a decade of impact possible, and with your continued support, we will reach Sixty by 30.

I hope you will join us in reflecting on the past, identifying the opportunity of the present, and working relentlessly for the future of every student in our state.

Ryan Fewins-Bliss

Ryan Fewins-Bliss
Executive Director