Higher education is critical to improving Michigan’s economy

The evidence is clear ‒ higher educational attainment translates into more jobs and higher incomes. The salaries of Michiganders significantly improve for those that obtain more than a high school education. The salaries for those with some college or an associate’s degree are on average 22 percent higher than those with a high school degree. Jobs requiring an associate’s degree or higher are growing twice as fast as jobs requiring only a high school diploma.

For those with a bachelor’s degree or higher, salaries are on average twice those with only a high school degree and they are more likely to be employed than those without any postsecondary education. The facts are compelling ‒ more education leads to higher income, a higher likelihood of employment, and big increases in jobs and GDP.

Despite these facts, however, Michigan has yet to fully recognize the importance of colleges and universities in achieving economic prosperity. Today we rank 26th in the percentage of our workforce with a technical education, 31st for those with associates degree or higher and among the bottom 10 states for college affordability. While 70 percent of all Michigan jobs by 2020 will require some level of education beyond high school, today only 37 percent of Michigan’s working age population has that level of education.

The reality is that we need both more skilled and educated workers if we are to going to create more good paying jobs and raise Michigan’s personal income level above its current level of 35th. During the next decade and beyond, job makers are going to go where the talent is. Today, we’re simply not ready for what’s coming.

Other states and regions are recognizing these facts and acting on the data. They’ve developed partnerships among business, government and colleges and universities to place higher education at the center of their economic growth strategies, keep a college education affordable, increase both in- and out-of-state enrollments to increase the future workforce and improve both education outcomes and administrative efficiency.

Michigan has made progress in recent years reinvesting in higher education to keep costs down and emphasizing the importance of students to get technical skills. But despite this progress, we’re still spending nine times more to house a prisoner than we are to help a student get the education they need to thrive. This just doesn’t make sense.

We collectively need to recognize our higher education system as one of our state’s most powerful economic engines. That is why Business Leaders for Michigan collaborated with higher education experts from across Michigan and the U.S. as well as business, economic and public policy leaders to develop a series of strategies for strengthening and leveraging the state’s higher education sector:

  • Boost higher education access and affordability by increasing higher education funding, strengthening performance-based funding for community colleges, exploring new instructional and administrative efficiencies, and marketing to raise enrollment.
  • Leverage higher education outcomes by fully embracing performance-based funding, developing alternative delivery and certification methods, and strengthening partnerships and collaboration.
  • Strengthen the transition from education to employment by developing structures for matching talent demand with supply, expanding supports for internships and career counseling, and tracking placement and other non-degree outcomes.
  • Help bolster economic impact by encouraging higher education to play a greater role in economic development and sharing best practices.

We believe a voluntary council comprised of business, higher education and state leaders can build on the advantages of Michigan's higher education enterprise and help move these strategies forward. We want to see leaders benchmarking the competitiveness of Michigan’s higher education institutions, identifying strategies to accelerate fulfillment of statewide talent needs, maintaining performance databases, and increasing collaboration.

The evidence about the impact of higher education in Michigan is overwhelmingly clear. It’s up to us to recognize, support and take advantage of what it offers us to reach our potential.

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Tue, 02/24/2015 - 11:59am
All well and good, but if you can't keep talent in Michigan this is a losing proposition. My daughter will graduate from MSU next year and is searching for jobs out of state. She could stay in Michigan and make less but the balance of her student loans dictate that she seek an out of state job to make a higher wage. Kids today are actually balancing student loan payments instead of saving for retirement...and that's not a healthy alternative for Michigan in the long run.
Tue, 02/24/2015 - 12:43pm
Plain English and some specifics would really, really help here. For example, 'Leverage higher education outcomes by fully embracing performance-based funding, developing alternative delivery and certification methods, and strengthening partnerships and collaboration.' Can anyone translate what that means? I'm a former consultant and I have no real idea how someone would interpret that. An example would be helpful (e.g. 'base teacher pay on student grades in XX tests', etc.). 'exploring new instructional and administrative efficiencies' - efficiencies usually means 'cut the pay of XX' or 'get rid of admin overhead', etc. Again I have no idea of what is being advocated here. No specifics - no buy-in from anybody. Is that plain enough?
Tue, 02/24/2015 - 2:39pm
Rick, I concur; but in such matters the pressure and urgency of the writers’ thoughts is so great that the need to put them into communicable form is swamped. 
Tue, 02/24/2015 - 11:16pm
Erwin, I disagree, Mr. Rothwell speaks at such a high level that it offers no ideas that can be apply be people locally. He says what is good and wonderful and yet he offers no pathway to achieve his nirvana. If a CEO a company made such a speech, all the employees would bob their heads and then go back to what they were doing, nothing would change. Mr. Rothwell tallks about collaborations but never overs the how and where to look for success. I am sorry, the article leaves me with the sense that he is more interested in reading what he wrote then he is in actually getting engaged in making change happen.
Tue, 02/24/2015 - 5:43pm
COLLEGE is FREE in germany apply NOW
John Q. Public
Wed, 02/25/2015 - 12:14am
If you're going to be a lobbyist, you have to write in clichés. No article today is complete without talk of leveraging something, regionally collaborating with someone (preferably "stakeholders" and "key leaders"), utilizing best practices, and synergizing administrative vibrancy (OK, I made that last one up, but if I hadn't told you, would you have noticed?) Go over to the M-1 article, where "doing nothing is not an option"--even though it always is in every decision tree I have ever made, and is even sometimes the best one. The administrators of Bridge's top schools explaining how they achieved their alleged excellence could have been a training manual for the vacuous use of buzz words.
Sun, 03/01/2015 - 9:41am
1. Rather than boost higher ed funding, get rid of non-value added regulations, overly-luxiourious recreation and new housing accommodations, minimalist faculy loads, bloated administrative structures, and streamline administrative processes. 2. Recognize the interest in innovative techniques is not routinely embraced by Federal policies that use antiquated methods to control the use of public funds, (e.g. Credit hour definition, direct loans, state authorization to restrict on-line delivery, etc.). 3. The interest in more closely tying employment to education is again driven by public funding. Our culture used to value an educated citizenry and a college education focued on critical thinking, problem solving, et. Employers invested in workers to provide specific job training - the how to accompany the why. It is analogous to the difference in professional basketball and baseball. One expectss college to provide the training while the other supplements the training. Beware of unintended consequences. 4. Perhaps the fundamental question. Is the role and function of higher education to educate at higher levels, or develop the economy. Should the role be to provide health insurance, monitor draft registrations and felony convictions, promote a "constutution" day, and who knows what else politicians will deem appropriate. So much of this issue is driven by our method of public funding. This may be the root cause and it is not addressed by Mr. Rothwell.
Patrick Shannon
Sun, 03/01/2015 - 10:12am
Michigan needs a singular public higher education plan that promotes a leaner delivery system for public higher education. Michigan supports 15 state universities. Each of these institutions competes for the same budget dollars. Appointed or elected boards govern each of these 15 institutions. The expansion of public higher education occurred during the post World War II era. Today’s economies, technology, and politics are much different. Our education and political leaders should look at the delivery systems for health care in Michigan and across the country. There is a revolution occurring in the design and implementation of health delivery systems. This change is based on the demand for efficient access to quality health care. The result is the elimination of small locally run hospitals and the growth of health care systems of care that promote access, efficiency, and above all patient quality of care. Shouldn’t Michigan leaders consider health care system affiliations and acquisitions in the development of a plan for the delivery of public higher education? Health and education are both publicly funded goods. So why shouldn’t students, parents, and taxpayers expect a lean higher education system that promotes and expects affordability, access, efficiency, and academic quality? There are successful public delivery models available to review and evaluate if one just looks around this great state.