Two words, free tuition.
Michigan state Senate Democrats are currently in the final stages of drafting a piece of legislation that guarantees free tuition to any Michiganian K-12 graduate who wishes to continue past high school into post-secondary education.
The bill, called the Michigan 2020 Plan, would offset the median $9,575 it costs annually to go to college in the state of Michigan by rescinding $3.5 billion, of an estimated $34 billion in tax breaks granted to Michigan corporations annually.
The structure of the Michigan 2020 Plan is loosely based on Kalamazoo’s Promise program, which has offered Kalamazoo area graduates four years of free tuition at one of 43 schools in the state of Michigan since 2005.
In that time the program has had 85% of its total 2,300 students attaining/remaining in the process of attaining their degree.
The bill comes at an important point in time for students as state funding for public universities has dropped over 65% in the last decade, leaving the increasingly heavy burden of tuition hikes on students’ backs.
One such student is Tony Perez, 20, a Ft. Gratiot native who expressed concerns over tuition hikes recently.
“Tuition bills have been killing students lately, more kids have been going to community colleges and things like that instead of more expensive institutions like U of M or MSU not because they’re not smart enough to get in, but because they simply can’t afford it,” said Perez.
Perez also vocalized his support for the plan saying, “It’s a great idea, it’s good for the state, it’ll help keep people in Michigan not to mention make Michigan attractive to outsiders as well.”
Perez added that it would be nice to be able to go to a bigger school without having to get some kind of special scholarship or grant.
Michigan state Senator and Democratic leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, spoke in favor of the plan last week upon its introduction to iterate her support.
“Study after study after study has emphasized the importance of a highly educated workforce in the economic vitality of any state in the 21st century,” said Whitmer, continuing on later to let her fellow senators know, “It’s not about whether Michigan can afford to do this, it’s whether we can afford not to.”
According to the official website for the Michigan 2020 plan “education is economic development” and Michigan’s path to economic revival lies in the establishment of a “knowledge economy” or an economy that relies on “intellectual capital.”
The Michigan 2020 Plan plans to utilize many world class institutions of higher learning already present in the state of Michigan to make what the website calls “the single best investment a state can make in its job market …”