Grand Rapids, Detroit losing race to gain college graduates

The Detroit and Grand Rapids metro areas have tripled the proportion of their residents with college degrees since 1970. Still, an expert on work-force development in Michigan says the state's two largest urban centers are treading water -- at best.

An analysis by the Brookings Institution of the 100 largest metro areas placed Detroit 65th and Grand Rapids 75th on college attainment, even with big gains on that front since 1970.

For example, Metro Detroit went from having 9.4 percent of its population with a college degree in 1970 to 27.3 percent in 2010.Grand Rapids climbed from 9.2 percent to 26.2 percent. (The Washington, D.C., area topped the list at 46.8 percent, while the lowest figure among the 100 was Bakersfield, Calif., at 15 percent.)

Larry Good of the Corporation for a Skilled Work Force in Ann Arbor notes that educational attainment was growing across the country.

"I think the data really argues that Detroit and Grand Rapids grew the proportion of college graduates at roughly the same pace as most metro areas and slower than a number of regions we compete with in an era of knowledge-economy jobs," he stated via email.

"What that dramatic increase reflects is that many who were retiring from the work force during that 40-year period did not have a college degree (including many who left school before World War II and post-war stimulants to attend college, such as the GI Bill). The more recent time frame data in-state and nationally show that growth slowing and even declining as we enter a period in which a much larger proportion of retirees have a degree," he explained.

"So, we, in effect, need to replace that (retired) person plus add another to increase the proportion now."

Good adds that the transformation of the economy means Michigan has to come up with a surge of college grads to be competitive going forward:

"(T)he 26 percent-27 percent range Detroit and Grand Rapids are in comes out at roughly half of the numbers that some notable researchers and policy folks believe are needed. The Lumina Foundation’s entire portfolio centers around the proposition that the United States needs 60 percent of its work force to have a post-secondary credential by 2025.  The urgency to increase post-secondary attainment – including associate degrees and industry-valued certifications – remains at the core of economic strategy. This isn’t going to occur without a substantially increased investment in post-secondary education in Michigan."

The effect of college attainment on employment received reinforcement last Friday with the release of the latest national employment figures. While the official unemployment rate rose to 8.2 percent, the jobless rate for those holding college degrees declined to 3.9 percent in May, a level not seen since December 2008.

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Jeffrey L Salisbury
Tue, 06/05/2012 - 8:46am
"The Lumina Foundation’s entire portfolio centers around the proposition that the United States needs 60 percent of its work force to have a post-secondary credential by 2025. " --- absurd - this absolutely flies in the face of Bureau of Labor Statistic reports and I cannot fathom why such inaccurate statements keep being spouted as if they are factual projections. And then there's this... "The effect of college attainment on employment received reinforcement last Friday with the release of the latest national employment figures. While the official unemployment rate rose to 8.2 percent, the jobless rate for those holding college degrees declined to 3.9 percent in May, a level not seen since December 2008." --- Rubbish --- A little more than half of new college graduates are jobless or under-employed. That's according to an Associated Press report. It says that 53.6% of new Bachelor's degree graduates either have not been able to find a job or have found a job that doesn't fully use their skills and knowledge they acquired in college. Instead most of them accept work as a waiter or waitress, bartender or working in retail. The US economy is not "knowledge based" (who even knows what that means?) it is 70-80 percent "consumer- driven" and service-based" --- certainly there are and will be all sorts of NEW jobs in fields we cannot perhaps quite imagine presently, but they do not now nor will they ever add up to the VAST majority of low- to medium-skill positions in society. Try this for one week (a month would be even better)... make a list of every purchase you make - every business and/or personal monetary transaction - in person, online, however - then consider the person to whom you handed your money - how many were "post-secondary credentialed"? Ask yourself the following... Meet and greet a Starbucks of Speedway attendant for your coffee and gas morning fill-ups? drop off dry cleaning?... get your car repaired? have your carpet cleaned? have an appliance breakdown? how about your home or office AC or furnace? buy any office supplies at Staples? get some copies made somewhere? buy groceries? stop in a hardware store? purchase any clothes? shop for and/or pick out a gift or card for a high school grad? eat any fast food? spend a few days at a hotel or resort? pick up a pizza on the way home from work? notice a meter reader popping by your house lately? get your hair cut? nails done? cable guy stop by your place lately? how about someone from the phone company? do business with a lawn care company? need any roof repairs? plumbing? carpentry? looking to buy a new car? drop your kids off at day care? visit a parent or relative in a nursing home? lucky enough to hire your own housekeeper? How much of any of that is going to change in 10 years? Still think 60 percent of the US work force is even remotely likely to have a post-secondary credential by 2025?
Jeff Salisbury
Tue, 06/05/2012 - 10:18am
By the way Derek... The Lumina Foundation is a front for the Student Loan Marketing Association about SLMA here mind all their PR-mill dreck about how they help the deserving poor, and how their mission is to just help Americans go to college. SLMA's mission is to profit from student loans. So OF COURSE it's their dream to get 60% of Americans going to college--on private student loans from SLMA. And the LF is led by lots of people from the college world, who are happy to cooperate because, after all, to them the LF is a jobs-preservation program for college instructors and administrators.
Tue, 06/05/2012 - 3:00pm
Question ... if 50% of recent graduates are un or under employed ( i assume meaning a job that no way requires post secondary ed or can't support their student loan payments) and if supposedly we have all these employers with jobs they can't fill ... How is it that pumping a bunch more kids through colleges and U's is gong to help us? or them? Maybe rather than beating the same dying horse, we need a whole new concept of post secondary ed? That would be much more interesting than this same old whining.
Jeff Salisbury
Thu, 06/07/2012 - 2:27pm
The John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University conducted survey research to investigate how the recession is affecting college grads. Published May 2012, the report, “Chasing the American Dream: Recent College Graduates and the Great Recession” (PDF), is based on a nationally representative sample of nearly 450 college graduates who completed their degrees between 2006 and 2011. The sampling error is plus or minus 5 percentage points. The report’s findings include: Only “one in two college graduates were employed full time at the time of the survey and another 26% were working part time”; in addition, “twelve percent were either unemployed (6%) or underemployed (6%).” These overall patterns of work seemed to dampen expectations for this generation of graduates: “Only about half (48%) thought they will have more financial success than their parents.” Of all those with full-time employment, the median salary was $28,000; for men the figure was a slightly higher, $30,000. However, 60% of graduates took a job paid by the hour. The median hourly wage was $10.23; it was $12 for women and $9 for men. The recession is indeed affecting starting salaries: “Those who graduated during the recession-era labor market (2009 to 2011) earned $3,000 less on average in their first job than those who graduated before the recession began.” “Many graduates were disappointed with their starting salary; over half reported that it was less than they had expected it to be. About 40% said they expected to earn the starting salary they were offered and nearly 1 in 10 reported their salary was higher than they expected it to be.” Having practical experience helped graduates to have higher income; students who completed an internship while in college earned nearly 15% more on average — $30,000 versus $26,000 — than those who did not undertake an internship.” A combined 57% said that they wished they had been more careful about choosing a major or had taken more classes to prepare for a career. But only 3% said that, upon reflection, they would not have gone to college. Another key to higher salary was the specific continuity between one’s education and line of work: “Graduates who found a job related to the field in which they got their degree benefited” by approximately 15% more on average than those who did not. Despite the fact that “about three-fourths believed they were accepting permanent positions … only 2 in 10 saw their first job as being on their career path.” The top two reasons for accepting a job were the following: 25% “took their job because of the salary and benefits offered or because it provided an opportunity for professional development”; another 20% took their job because they had no other offer or alternative.” “Although college graduates are fairly optimistic about their future,” the researchers conclude, “about 4 in 10 still believed that having a job where they earn enough to have a comfortable life is quite a ways off.”
Thu, 06/14/2012 - 10:44am
It is our legislature's and Governor's goal to reduce plebian labor costs regardless of education. Most republicans in Lansing would love to have us earn less that minimum wage. That leaves more for those that financially support them---and it ain't the taxpayer supporting them.