Michigan business, labor, higher education, K-12, government, philanthropy and community leaders — all appreciate the tremendous individual and shared economic benefits from a more highly educated and highly skilled population. To realize these benefits, Michigan must continue to advance policies and practices that increase the successful attainment of needed skills, earned through a wide range of postsecondary credentials, from occupational certificates and apprenticeships to associate, bachelor, graduate and professional degrees. When we speak of increasing higher education attainment, we must mean all workworld-valued forms of postsecondary credentials. This was the same goal held by the bi-partisan Cherry Commission that in 2004 identified strategic actions to increase higher education attainment and leverage the economic impact of Michigan’s higher education institutions. That very public process produced a widely supported strategic action plan, significant elements of which were subsequently implemented.

Much has been done, but much remains to be done. Now some time has passed. New issues, opportunities, players, ideas, and strategies have emerged in Michigan, or been modeled by other states. New steps toward better alignment around shared goals and strategies for increasing postsecondary education degree and credential attainment are being identified and, in some cases, advanced among Michigan stakeholders.

That is why in 2014 key leaders in higher education came together to form a Postsecondary Credential Attainment Workgroup to forge a new action plan for how Michigan can help many more citizens achieve the needed postsecondary credentials that will allow them to find a place, or create a place, in the economy of today and tomorrow.

This workgroup brought together the public and independent colleges and Universities, Business Leaders for Michigan, labor leadership, bi-partisan legislative leaders, the Michigan Department of Education, Michigan College Access Network, the Governor’s office, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Workforce Development Agency, and community and regional higher education and workforce leaders. The workgroup was facilitated by Michigan State Board of Education President John Austin, and supported with funding from The Kresge, W.K. Kellogg, and Lumina Foundations, and with research assistance from Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Central Michigan University.

Over several months this workgroup assessed Michigan’s population changes, benchmarked Michigan’s overall postsecondary education performance; and performance by region, race, gender, age and income sub-groups. It examined what other states are doing differently and better; defined a goal for postsecondary attainment for Michigan; identified strategies to meet that goal; and perhaps most importantly, committed to continue to work together after releasing this report to advance this plan of action.

The recommendations in this report are the strong consensus of the work group members, and have been reviewed by their organizations and constituencies.

In making these recommendations we focused on the economic benefits to Michigan, our citizens, and employers of better-prepared people with skills and credentials needed to compete. We want to acknowledge that the pursuit of further education has many additional and important societal, civic, and personal enrichment benefits that contribute to both an individual’s and the State’s quality of life, and in turn also benefit our economy.

This report is the first step towards a new round of ongoing strategic action to ensure 60% of our citizens earn needed and valuable postsecondary credentials by 2025, and to make Michigan and its citizens economically competitive with the top performing states.


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