Most of the attention on Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s newest proposal to improve the state’s education system will go to his bid to consolidate power in the governor’s mansion, but there’s another portion of that plan worthy of a closer look.
Along with suggesting that Michigan do away with its elected state school board and give the governor a bigger hand in education policy, the report from the governor’s 21st Century Education Commission suggested Michigan offer universal access to preschool for all 4-year-olds, state-funded, merit-based scholarships for public universities, and free community college for everyone.
These are not inexpensive ideas, and they’re not the kinds of proposals any state can quickly put into action. The commission estimated the plan would cost $2.5 billion a year to enact. However, Michigan should embrace these as long-term goals to improve the state’s education system and retain talented Michigan natives.
Among the 50 states, Michigan has the fourth-highest tuition for community colleges. And Michigan ranks 42nd in state aid for community colleges and universities. Worse than that, the state has recently plummeted to that ranking with the fifth-largest decline over the last five years. It’s time for Michigan to focus its energy and funding on the community college system that improves communities and offers a less expensive alternative to four-year universities.
The commission offered 32 recommendations and suggested the state could implement them by 2025. Among the goals is to increase the percentage of Michigan residents who have a college degree, certificate, or completed skills training to 70 percent.
While many elements of the plan have drawn criticism, expanding early education and making college more affordable should be ideas everyone can support.
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