Group aims for increase in post-secondary degrees for Michiganders

Michigan Radio Newsroom

The Michigan Postsecondary Credential Attainment workgroup wants more people in Michigan to obtain some type of post-secondary credential by 2025.

That's according to a report the workgroup released this week.

Right now, 46% of adults in Michigan hold a technical or occupational certificate, associate degree or higher. The group has set a goal to increase this to 60% by 2025.

Michigan board of education president John Austin facilitated the group, which was made up of education, business, labor and government leaders. They convened over several months in 2014.

Michigan currently ranks 32nd among the "best educated" states in the nation. Austin says the goal is to be among the top 10.

He says the commitment to obtaining post-secondary degrees is important to help Michigan and its residents remain competitive among other states.

"The single-most important thing to do to grow our economy is to help more people reach higher levels of education," Austin said.

Michigan currently ranks 38th in the nation in personal income, $5,000 below the national average, according to the report.

A lack of college and career counseling, the achievement gaps between minorities and the white majority population, and attainment among majority white Michiganders are among the issues that need resolution, according to the report.

Austin says financial aid is one of the biggest barriers to continuing education.

"That's an obstacle for working people and students – to be able to get the benefits of post-secondary education without taking on crushing debt burdens," Austin said.

Expansion of Promise scholarships and other community programs are recommended strategies for meeting the 2025 goal.

"Some communities have seen a 60-90% jump of young people leaving high school to post-secondary education," Austin said.

The workgroup also recommended scholarships for adults continuing their education.

People who have any and all forms of post-secondary education have higher incomes, and are more likely to have a job and keep a job during a recession, to create a new business, stay out of poverty, and are happier and healthier, says Austin.

"There's real economic payoffs and a real return on investment for supporting more people to achieve post-secondary degrees," he said.

- Paulette Parker, Michigan Radio Newsroom