The budget dispute in Lansing has resulted in drastic cuts to an essential needs-based tuition grant program for Michigan students. Just last week, the Michigan Tuition Grant was redlined out of the state’s budget for the year. This decision not only puts our state’s most vulnerable populations at risk, but it also puts our economic future on the line.
Michigan’s Tuition Grant provides financial aid for nearly 2,000 students at Davenport University and nearly 17,000 students attending college across the state, including adults, veterans and first-generation students. Each of these students represent individuals who can’t afford this loss of aid if they are to pursue postsecondary education.
These cuts don’t only impact students, they also impact our state’s economy. It is a well-established fact that economic growth and opportunity align with educational attainment. When our students have to drop out of college, Michigan becomes less competitive. In fact, when Amazon chose a location outside of Michigan for its second headquarters, it pointed to lack of talent and training as one of its key deciding factors.
You can see the impact of this budget debate in the faces of the students we serve every day. In students like Kenneth Bennett, a first-generation student pursuing an information technology degree from Davenport University. He works full time and goes to school so that when he graduates, he will earn a high-paying position and change the financial outlook of his entire family.
“Coming from a low-income family, these funds are one of the key reasons I can pursue a degree,” Bennett said. “I already work full time, participate in Davenport’s esports team and have a full course load in school — eliminating this grant adds to my growing student debt and creates a significant burden.”
Students who receive the tuition grant represent approximately 30% of all students receiving needs-based financial aid from the state of Michigan.
However, our students’ wallets aren’t the only thing that will be impacted by this decision. In 2020, 65% of all jobs will require some level of education beyond high school. Today, only 39% of Michigan’s working-age population are ready for those jobs. With some college or an associate degree, salaries are on average 22% higher than those with a high school degree. For those with a bachelor’s degree or higher, salaries are on average twice as much as those with only a high school degree.
By cutting opportunities for Michigan students to continue learning, state leaders have put our state’s future prosperity — and the future prosperity of Michigan families — at risk. Our state’s leaders need to address the budget and the shortfall in funding for the Michigan Tuition Grant now before even one of Michigan’s college students is forced to give up on his or her career aspirations.
Richard Pappas is president of Davenport University.