LANSING, MI — Michigan must do more to help residents attain college degrees or training certificates if the state hopes to compete for the jobs — and develop the job creators — of the future, according to a coalition of education, business, labor and government leaders.
"Nothing is more important to Michigan's economy," said Board of Education president John Austin, who joined other members of the Michigan Postsecondary Credential Attainment workgroup at the state Capitol on Tuesday for the release of a new "action plan" report.
The workgroup recommended the state set an aggressive goal of ensuring that at least 60 percent of Michigan residents have a post-secondary credential of some type by 2025.
Only 38 percent of Michiganders currently have an associates degree or higher, and another 7.5 percent have earned technical or occupational certificates, according to the new report.
That combined rate of post-secondary achievement trails the national average and "puts Michigan well behind" top performing states, such as Georgia and Minnesota, where resident earn higher annual average salaries.
People who earn college degrees or credentials make more money and are more likely to be employed or create jobs, Austin said. They're also taxpayers, they contribute to society and they're less likely to be a drain on resources.
"There's tremendous return on investment for helping people achieve higher levels of education," he said.
2012 Educational Credential Percentage of working age population (25-64): Top 10 States and Michigan.
The bipartisan workgroup, convened in 2014, includes members of the Michigan Department of Education, the American Federation of Teachers, Business Leaders for Michigan, the Snyder administration, Republican state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, Democratic state Rep. Sam Singh, philanthropic groups, community colleges and universities.
To reach the 60 percent goal by 2025, Michigan residents would need to obtain 64,000 more associates degrees, 231,000 more bachelor's degrees, 45,000 more advanced degrees, and 439,000 more occupational certificates or employer-valued credentials.
"Given the performance in postsecondary attainment among all Michigan racial and ethnic groups, hitting this target will require closing the achievement gaps among blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans, and improving attainment among majority white Michiganders," according to the report.
The workgroup recommended a series of policy proposals focused around three key areas: increasing post-secondary participation, ensuring completion and creating a strategic framework for success.
Per Capita Income, Educational Attainment in Michigan and Top 10 States
The state should offer grants to train and hire more high school career counselors, according to the workgroup, and it should develop a simplified needs-based financial aid program for students who want to go to college.
"A simple and effective way to share this aid would be to provide a minimum, need-based award to students at any Michigan public or independent college, university, or community college, willing to work hard and succeed at earning degrees and certificates," said the report.
The workgroup also recommended creation of a new "Michigan Promise" program for adult continuing education. The two-year scholarship program would cover tuition costs for two years of community college or up to $5,000 for credentialing or certification in high-demand careers.
The state also needs to strategically invest in higher education to create a "smarter, higher-performing system," according to the report, which notes Michigan funding for public universities has fallen $72.6 million over the past decade, or roughly $319 million with inflation.
State funding currently covers about 21 percent of university funding operations in Michigan, according to the report, while the rest is covered by tuition and fees.
"It goes without saying that we must see a reversal in the state-to-student cost shift and who pays for a college education in Michigan if we're going to meet this most ambitious and necessary goal," said Daniel Hurley, CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities.
Read the full Michigan Postsecondary Credential Attainment report at mitalentgoal2025.org.
Jonathan Oosting is a Capitol reporter for MLive Media Group. Email him, find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.