While there is always disagreement while working through the budget process, this year the discord was nearly unprecedented, did not protect the interests of our residents, and is dangerous to the long-term health of our state’s economy.
That is why I’m sponsoring a plan to restore funding to fix a big part of the problem: the loss of a crucial need-based financial aid program, the Michigan Tuition Grant, that helps 17,000
Michigan students complete their education. Many of these students are over the age of 25 and trying to advance in their careers. Many more are the first in their families to pursue a degree.
A number of them are veterans.
The Michigan Tuition grant is a needs-based grant that provides up to $2,400 each year to eligible students attending any of Michigan’s 30 independent, non-profit colleges and universities. This year it was our intention to raise the grant to $3,000. Students have been in school for approximately two months already, and many of them made the decision to go to college based on tuition grants and other financial aid they expected to receive. Now, they are trying to study and learn with the threat of possibly having to abandon their dreams hanging over their heads.
Most unfair of all, these students are people who are largely headed right into the workforce, and offer tremendous promise to Michigan’s economy:
5,646 MTG recipients are over the age of 25—and the MTG is the only program serving
adult students in Michigan who are working toward a bachelor’s degree,
Around 210 grant recipients are veterans
30 percent of MTG recipients are non-white, and
More than 6,000 grant recipients are first generation college students.
What’s more is that most of these students complete a degree in four years, two to three years sooner than other college students in the state.
I am standing up for all these students—as well as the dedicated faculty, staff, and families that support them—when I urge the restoration of these funds.
Across Michigan, gaps in our talent pipeline are consistently identified as a top threat to the state’s future prosperity. It therefore seems highly counterintuitive that we should act in ways that actually diminish that pipeline—but that’s exactly what’s happened.
Today, Michigan’s educational attainment ranks in the bottom half of all states, at just below 40 percent. That’s a number that simply must increase, since it’s anticipated that 70 percent of all jobs will shortly require some level of education beyond high school.
Worse still, Michigan ranks 32nd in the U.S. for the number of critical skills degrees and certificates awarded. Many of Michigan’s independent colleges specialize in these types of high-tech degrees, which are valued for their ability to prepare students for the jobs of the future. Reducing students’ access to these degrees makes no sense and will, in fact, cause long-term harm to our state’s ability to provide skilled, educated workers to the employers we most wish to attract.
Today, as Michigan students try to continue learning and growing, many of them do so with feelings of anxiety and frustration. It is they who are being penalized for the failure of our elected leaders to find sound solutions to our budget.
They are collateral damage in this political war that continues with no end in sight. And so, on their behalf, I ask for an end to this fight. I ask for—indeed, I expect—legitimate answers that protect our state’s future prosperity.
Let’s get back to the table and find solutions that work.