The 44-cent solution

What can you buy with 44 cents?

You can get one postage stamp, at least for the next 12 days, when the cost of mailing a letter jumps to 45 cents.

You could buy an eighth of a gallon of gas.

Or you could help turn around the state’s economy.

Michigan families pay more to send their children to the state’s public universities than do the families of almost any other state, according to a new Bridge analysis.  In many cases, over the course of four years, Michigan college students will pay over $10,000 more than their peers in other states pay to attend similar schools.

The reason is as simple as it is puzzling: Michigan has chosen to defund higher education. Our state leaders, who boast that our public university system is among the top in the nation, have stripped support from the schools at a staggering rate. Universities have filled that hole in their budgets by increasing tuition.

We are at an economic disadvantage when Michigan has higher college costs than other states. Some students will be discouraged from enrolling because of the daunting price tag; others will leave campus deeper in debt than college grads in other states.

That’s where your 44 cents comes in.

Cutting every in-state students’ college costs by $1,000 annually, would cost each Michigan residents 44 cents a week.

That amount more would cut student debt by $4,000 (for those getting a bachelor's degree in four years). Student loan experts say the actual payment on student loans is double the original amount borrowed. That means not borrowing $4,000 actually saves college grads $8,000.

There are about 230,000 full-time, in-state students attending Michigan’s 15 public universities.  If each of them had an additional $8,000 to spend or invest in Michigan instead of plowing it into loan payments, there would be $1.84 billion added to our economy.

All that for 44 cents a week. Double that amount (roughly the cost of that Snickers bar you get from the vending machine), and Michigan student debt could shrink to one of the lowest levels in the nation.

It’s called a public education because it’s good for the public, not just for the kids in the classrooms and dormitories.

Would you be willing to pay 44 cents a week for a better, more affordable college system? Let us know.

Better yet, let your state senator or representative know.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Barry Matthews
Tue, 01/10/2012 - 9:29am
Student Loans impoverish our society to the profit of a few.
Wed, 01/11/2012 - 2:54pm
There is an equity issue as well when educational funding levels are cut. I have paid taxes all my life to send other people's kids to college. (Which, as you point out, benefited me and the rest of Michigan as well as the students themselves.) Now I have two sons in college, and they have higher tuition, lower financial aid, and more debt because of funding cuts. They also qualified for Michigan Promise scholarships, but funding for those scholarships was eliminated. Michigan will probably come to its senses a few years from now and start funding higher education again. Then my sons will be able to pay taxes for the rest of their lives to send other people's kids to college.