College affordability will shape Michigan’s future economy

We all believe a college degree should provide our students with opportunity, and we know that having one helps ensure future earnings and success.

Unfortunately, the cost of a college degree can create major obstacles that keep young people from enrolling, prevent them from graduating or saddle them with long-term financial burdens.

Last year, 62 percent of college graduates in Michigan left school with an average of $29,450 in federal loan debt alone, according to the Project on Student Debt at the Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS). That’s a nearly $11,000 increase from graduates 10 years prior.

And once they do graduate, almost 40 percent leave the state, taking their knowledge and talent elsewhere. We can’t afford to lose the next generation of leaders, innovators and creators to other states. As legislators and citizens, we’re obligated to make Michigan a place where graduates can live, work and raise families without undue hardship.

The Center for Michigan has made great strides in advancing the college affordability conversation by producing reports, hosting forums and analyzing the problem from many different angles. The next steps include lawmakers developing and enacting comprehensive policy solutions to address the growing debt epidemic.

In fact, the Senate recently approved bipartisan legislation — that Senator Goeff Hansen and I cosponsored — to expand and improve Michigan’s Promise Zone program. The bills, based off the extremely successful Kalamazoo Promise, allows local communities to pool resources and use tax increment financing to help all students afford a college education.

Additional legislation introduced in the House and Senate would provide welcome tax relief, too. Eligible individuals would be able to claim an income tax credit equal to 50 percent of the amount of qualified student loan payments made during the tax year. Funds saved by this tax credit could help students get ahead instead of falling behind within months of graduation.

We also need to give prospective students the tools they need to make the best financial decisions about their education. College counselors should have extensive training that will help families navigate the complicated landscape of scholarships and financial aid. Students need trusted third parties to advocate for their interests. Further, we should consider additional protections for borrowers to increase accountability and reduce predatory lending.

My colleagues and I are committed to supporting legislation that make a difference in our students’ lives. When more people have the opportunity to obtain a high-quality education, join the middle class and stay there, they are more likely to work, live and spend their money here in Michigan.

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Kelly O'Leary
Thu, 11/12/2015 - 10:23am
My concern is for the thousands of college graduates who have chosen to stay in Michigan, who are working menial jobs, and whose educational debt far exceeds their ability to pay. Would they be eligible for the proposed tax credit?
Thu, 11/12/2015 - 10:46am
First off get off the idea that everyone needs a college degree. There are so many options to consider. Are you ready to handle the rigors of a university. Start at a community college. Go into a program where there are jobs somewhere if not in MIch. Maybe you work and go part time. Do a job shadow. mentoring experience, co-op, volunteer so that when you enter a career path you have at least some idea of what you are going into. Consider jobs that can't be outsourced. Interview people who are in those careers. and more importantly be sure you have the ability and skills to succeed in that career field.
John J
Fri, 11/13/2015 - 4:09pm
Alas, there are very few jobs that 'cannot be outsourced.' Technology has enabled allllmost everything to be done around the world in real time. Real double-edged sword
Thu, 11/12/2015 - 11:50am
So ... if you and/or your parents responsibly save for college, if you choose to save money by going to community colleges or stretching your degree out (giving you little to no debt), if you move to Michigan from another state (poaching other state's grads is our best deal!), you get nothing? Are you not just rewarding going into debt? That has had a bad track record. Sounds like your program started briefly on the right track then fell off. Why not just do a credit for a percentage of post secondary Ed expense paid, student loan or not? Better yet move all state higher Ed monies to this approach. How do "promise" programs help us if 40% of grads leave the state?
Colette DeNooyer
Thu, 11/12/2015 - 12:52pm
At the turn of the century a grass roots group of parents convinced legislators that we needed universal high school education in order to prepare the next generation for jobs in the Industrial revolution. Times had changed. Jobs were moving from the farms. We are there again - and it is time to do what Europe and other Western countries have long done (and some States!) - make higher education including technical education - universally available. If not free tuition - (though I think it should be there are books and room and board and other expenses.) then underwritten so that students can graduate with no debt. As we were able to do in the 70's by working part time jobs. Now - that is impossible. We will regret not investing more heavily in the future and saddling the next generation with debts that take most of their life to pay off.
Fri, 11/13/2015 - 11:25am
So my peers and siblings who recently graduated with $30k plus of loans get nothing? New enrollees get to benefit only? Not sure that is fair.
Barry Visel
Thu, 11/12/2015 - 7:50pm
I hope every reader understands the Kalamazoo Promise is PRIVATELY funded!...feel free to duplicate. I hope everyone realizes that tax increment financing successfully and incrementally reduces future expected revenue for the purposes originally intended...there is no new revenue created, only a diversion of future revenues that were supposed to go elsewhere. I hope if we're considering tax credits to forgive student loan debt, only those that actually finish a degree would be the way, how much would this scheme add to the $30+ Billion we already give away as tax credits, deductions and incentives...can we see a fiscal impact statement please?...all these tax expenditures are simply a way to rob Peter to pay Paul.
Sun, 11/15/2015 - 1:39am
Cost of post secondary education is one of the barriers a student must overcome, but it isn't insurmountable. What is more important is what is witin the student [desire, persistance], for without that even if the education is free it will not be achieved nor valued. Why and how have students overcome this barrier in the past? We should be trying to understand that so we can learn from their successes.
Charles Richards
Sun, 11/15/2015 - 3:29pm
Representative Ananich's logic escapes me. He says, "When more people have the opportunity to obtain a high-quality education, join the middle class and stay there, they are more likely to work, live and spend their money here in Michigan." The crucial part of that sentence is "join the middle class and stay there." If they can do that in Michigan, then they are indeed likely to stay in Michigan whether or not they have "a high-quality education." It is currently the case that 40% of our college graduates leave Michigan; obviously, they did not feel that they could "join the middle class and stay there" in Michigan. It is necessary to pursue policies that promote economic growth and create the attractive opportunities that are competitive with what other states have to offer. Then more of our college graduates will choose to stay in Michigan. It is putting the cart before the horse to help more Michigan students get a college degree in the belief they will stay in the absence of those opportunities.