Lawmakers: Make college education more affordable by treating it as a priority
A recent analysis of college costs by Bridge magazine should be required reading for all Michigan lawmakers.
The review found that students attending public universities in our state are paying more for their education than students in virtually any other state. The reason for that is quite straightforward. The state of Michigan has been slashing support for higher education, shifting more of that cost onto students and their families.
The Bridge analysis concluded that the net cost of attending the University of Michigan was sixth highest among 73 peer universities across the nation. Students at Grand Valley State University pay an average of $23,000 more over four years than the median cost as similar universities elsewhere. Bridge concluded that GVSU has the sixth highest net cost and the third lowest level of state support among its group of peer institutions. A GVSU official told Bridge that the college has “essentially been privatized’’ by the cuts in state support.
The Center for Michigan, a non-profit, non-partisan policy group that publishes Bridge, has done us all a service by providing this analysis.
Michigan has one of the nation’s finest university systems, and yet at a time when a college education has become the most important indicator of personal income and economic vitality, we are systematically disinvesting in that system and making it less affordable for young people in Michigan to attend college.
Last year, the Legislature made many difficult, unpopular decisions in order to help put the state’s fiscal house in order. Now, it is time for lawmakers to turn their attention to policy decisions that can shape the state for the future, and high among those has to be a commitment to preserve our university system and make college more affordable.
We challenge state lawmakers with these questions:
What actual evidence is there that tax cuts to business will generate new jobs, and what justification is there for continuing to make that a legislative priority at the expense of education?
Why have the astronomical costs of incarcerating prisoners in Michigan gone unaddressed, when savings available there could help make our education system stronger? What kind of future is Michigan positioning itself for when it is one of the few states in America that spends more on prisons than on education?
As the state budget shows signs of stabilizing and the improving fortunes of the auto industry create the possibility of new revenue, will the Legislature continue to preoccupy itself with a social agenda on issues like domestic partner benefits, or will it focus on fundamental issues like education that can restore Michigan to the economic strength it once enjoyed?
Our past economic might was built on high-wage, low-skill jobs that required little education. We all understand those days are gone, yet at a policy level, we continue to struggle with a culture that does not put enough value on higher education.
The analysis in Bridge magazine has helped frame that issue, and we commend the Center for Michigan for publishing it. If we are not talking about educational attainment and the availability of a college education in the coming year, then we’re not having the right conversation. Let’s make it a priority in 2012.
This editorial was published in today's newspaper and reflects the opinion of the Editorial Board at AnnArbor.com. David Lampe, who serves as a community member on our Editorial Board and is director of research communications in the office of the vice president of research at the University of Michigan, did not participate in our deliberations on this editorial.