Public education in Michigan is facing some real challenges.
- Not enough students graduate or go on to earn a degree.
- Many are bored or don't feel challenged in high school.
- Those who do go to college often finish with a mountain of debt.
- There never seems to be enough money available for education.
Is there a better way? Before considering some options, let's look at the current situation.
K-12 public education is funded primarily through the School Aid Fund (SAF). Public schools receive a "foundation grant" of at least $7,085 for every student enrolled from kindergarten through high school regardless of achievement.
There is no formula for higher education funding.
Each of the 15 public universities in Michigan receives a "gross appropriation" from the general fund. Funding levels vary widely with no logical rationale. For example:
- Grand Valley State receives $65 million, which averages out to only $3,340 per full-time student.
- Michigan Tech, in the Upper Peninsula, receives $49 million, $8,297 per student.
- Western Michigan gets $113 million, but only $4,702 per student.
- Michigan State gets $292 million, $6,984 per student.
On average, taxpayers contribute $5,852 for every student who attends a public university, a total of $1.5 billion, even though one in ten students are not from Michigan and their parents have never paid taxes in this state.
What if we completely rethink how we fund education? Two simple policy initiatives would literally change the face of education in Michigan:
- Award up to $3,500 to any high school junior or senior who is accepted to a community college or public university full-time.
- Create a "foundation grant" of $5,852 for every Michigan high school graduate who is accepted to a public university.
A number of positive things might occur as a result:
- High school juniors or seniors could get all of their education at a community college paid for or much of their university tuition covered.
- Students could earn their degree and be ready for the workforce two years earlier.
- College would become affordable for many who might not otherwise attend.
- Students would become consumers, using their grant to shop for the best quality at the best price.
- Because non-residents would be ineligible for grant funding, Michigan would save about $150 million in the higher education budget.
- Every high school student who attended college would save the SAF $7,085 which could then be used to further fund public education.
- Students who are not feeling challenged or can't get the courses they want can get a jump start on college or get their associates' degree and work in a skilled trade.
Making these two ideas happen would be fairly simple. The Appropriations Committee could create the higher education foundation grant. Passage of HB 4855 and HB 4856 would create the grant for high school students to attend college. You can read the main bill here. If you like this bill, send a note to House Education Committee Chair, Tim Melton.
MICHIGAN EDUCATION FACTS
- Michigan spends $1.5 billion on higher education, an average of $5,852 per full-time college student.
- WMU receives $4,702 per student.
- Michigan Tech receives $8,297 per student.
- GVSU receives $3,340 per student.
- According to the state constitution, universities are autonomous.
Taxpayers give them money, but cannot tell them how to spend it.
- Average salary for Professors at U of M is $91,900. This year, they receive a 4.1% increase.
- Michigan spends $13.1 billion on K-12 education, an average of $7,865 per student.
- As of the 2005, Michigan teachers were the 4th highest paid in the country at $56,973.
- Average wages of MEA employees that year was $77,750.