Michigan College Access Network 2020 Annual Report

2018 Howdy, partner.

Building and sustaining lasting partnerships.

Many, if not all, of the programs, grants, and opportunities MCAN makes possible are the result of strategic and lasting partnerships. By partnering with nonprofits, communities, schools, businesses, and other leaders in college access, we are able to pair different perspectives and resources to drive change, and we demonstrated that ability in 2018. To put it simply: We’re all stronger when we work together.

According to MCAN Executive Director Ryan Fewins-Bliss, the secret sauce to generating such lasting and productive partnerships is agility and old-fashioned hard work. “MCAN has been the best place I’ve worked in my professional career because we work hard, but that’s the fun for me,” he says. “We're less formal than some others in our space, making it a really progressive workspace. There’s just this secret way that we do our work, fueled by a high risk tolerance, that tends to bring people to us and make things happen. We understand that, if an idea is solid, we'll find the money and the people and make it happen. That agility is attractive to people and makes them want to get involved. At MCAN, there’s a never-ending appetite. We're just going to keep going at it, and that’s going to bring people to the table.”

The partnership process truly goes full-circle when one of MCAN’s programs attracts a partner, which later goes on to make another program possible. (The nonprofit circle of life, if you will.) “Something that really caught my attention and led us to partner with MCAN was AdviseMI,” says Dan Hurley, CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities and MCAN partner. “Given the shortage of high school counselors, there was a huge need for that program. When I think about collaboration and partnership, there's no program that better exemplifies that.”

“It's infrequent that you find an organization with capacity, that is in a position to be a coach, and is aware of postsecondary and community-based organizations. That’s why we chose to partner with MCAN. We picked them because we knew what they could do; they can speak institution talk, policy talk, advocacy talk. They’re multilingual.”

- Haley Glover, strategy director at Lumina Foundation

Introducing the Total Talent Report

In 2018, one product of a beneficial partnership was the Total Talent Report, which MCAN released in partnership with 15 Michigan Higher Education Attainment Roundtable (MIHEART) members. The report was designed to urge the legislature and the governor to make talent attainment a top public policy priority. MIHEART is made up of cross-sector leaders passionate about increasing and retaining talent within our state.

“I appreciate MCAN’s energy, and I know they’ll keep bringing that energy to encourage all Michiganders to get a higher education degree. Keep up the good work forcing change that will ultimately lead to a better quality of life across the state.”

- Kerry Ebersole Singh, senior advisor and director of the Sixty by 30 Office and MCAN partner

Developing a FAFSA Tracker

Another major accomplishment from 2018 was launching the FAFSA Tracker. The FAFSA Tracker is an online data tracking tool that captures FAFSA completion rates among high schools. With this, schools are able to analyze and present this data to demonstrate a number of factors, such as how high schools compare side-by-side, what year-over-year trends exist, and more. In 2018, we were able to engage 291 schools through this campaign.

“The FAFSA Tracker has been an important feature for schools,” says Wendy Zdeb, executive director at Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals. “With tools like this, MCAN has an ability to help counselors and administrators and also collect data that can support them legislatively. They connect people.”

"Looking toward the future, MCAN and its partners are tackling the root cause instead of short-term issues. We’re changing the system, not just adding programs. It’s hard work, but it’s so important."

- Monica Moser, president and CEO at Jackson Community Foundation and MCAN partner

Top Accomplishments

  • Created the FAFSA Tracker
  • Released the Total Talent Report in partnership with MIHEART
  • Moved our office to 200 N. Washington Square in Lansing
  • Established the four-year Reach Higher High School grant-making strategy
  • Created our interactive, web-based Impact Map
  • AdviseMI received the Outstanding National Service Award at the 2018 Governor’s Service Award ceremony
  • Held our second College Access Advocacy Day, with 60 total attendees
  • Combined Maritime and Advanced Maritime academies
  • Introduced the Career and College Readiness Specialist Professional Learning Community, now called the College and Career Champion Professional Learning Community
  • Celebrated Sarah Anthony, former deputy director for partnerships and advocacy, being elected State Representative for Michigan’s 68th House District