A New Policy Agenda for Postsecondary Credential Attainment in Michigan – To reach 60% by 2025

As noted, Michigan has put place and is fine-tuning a number of policies and practices that are high-yield in terms of their contributions to meeting our credential attainment goal. These include significant policy changes to enhance early childhood education, more rigorous college and career ready secondary standards, robust community support structures for increasing postsecondary access, increased attention to performance in the financing of higher education, improvement in postsecondary completion rates at institutions, and better matching labor market supply and demand in STEM and other technical occupations.

Based on the Michigan performance on the metrics above, and their implications for policy priorities moving forward, it is time for Michigan to make some major moves to further enhance and improve our talent development system.

The priorities for a new round of policy change and innovation start with setting a clear State goal for postsecondary credential attainment. Then we have to define the path to get there—the set of actions required to meet this goal and meet the challenge recently made by Business Leaders for Michigan to become a top ten state for educated and skilled talent production.

Steps that can help many more of our citizens, young and old, connect to postsecondary education, and move through to completion of valuable postsecondary credentials must be taken in three areas:

  • Increase Postsecondary Participation by Michigan youth and adults.
  • Ensure Postsecondary Completion and Success: Make the system work to ensure success in credential-earning in a timely and cost-efficient manner.
  • Put in Place Strategic Success Enablers that provide needed performance and decision-support information, financing, and a collaborative policy-making infrastructure to support, guide, and continuously adapt Michigan’s efforts for success.

The recommendations that follow summarize these high-yield policy changes and how we can implement them to help Michigan take giant steps towards our goal of 60% of Michigan citizens with postsecondary degrees and certificates in the next ten years.

Increase Postsecondary Participation: Youth

At a time when quality college and career guidance and counseling are essential to navigate the system ahead, particularly for youth in families without a history of college attendance, Michigan’s over 700-to-1 student-to-counselor ratio makes it impossible to provide quality guidance and counseling to most high-school students. Further, what is needed to be a good counselor and advisor has changed dramatically over the years, while our preparation and support for our counselors has not kept pace.

The high rates of remediation needed among young people entering postsecondary learning also means we must have strong policies and incentives to encourage postsecondary readiness, identify readiness problems earlier, and intervene more successfully. The real and perceived high cost of postsecondary education can discourage many young people and their families from considering or pursuing the option (particularly among first time college students and poor and minority students). The importance of clear, simple, financial aid, and help navigating the financial aid process cannot be overstated. The demonstrated positive impact on college attendance and ultimately credential-earning success, when robust community support and financing structures are in place (as seen in many Michigan communities) suggests the need to ensure this support endures, grows, and is there for all young learners—particularly those without strong family supports and social networks.

To reach our goal for post-secondary credential attainment, Michigan must also dramatically expand powerful strategies for integrating postsecondary credit-taking and credential earning with high school, and ensure the participation of minority and low-income students. Early college credit-taking includes programs for dual enrollment, concurrent enrollment, early and middle colleges, Advanced Placement courses, and International Baccalaureate programs.

Research on participation in these programs has shown significantly increased rates of postsecondary enrollment, persistence to the second term and year, and degree and credential attainment for participants. This is true for high-achieving students (often seen as the target of many of these programs), but these strategies are also particularly powerful and important for at-risk, poor and minority students, and many who would not have necessarily considered attending a postsecondary program. These are the students that Michigan must engage more aggressively, and increase their postsecondary enrollment numbers, if we are to reach our goal. While Michigan requires high schools to offer dual enrollment options, and has seen a growing early/middle college effort with 22 schools and 69 programs, along with more concurrent enrollment efforts and IB programs—these initiatives still engage a relatively small share of high school learners. Due to a combination of financial, policy, and procedural impediments and disincentives, only 11% or 53,000[38] Michigan high school students earned any post-secondary credits while in high school. The major reason for these low numbers is the lack of a financing system that incents and rewards participation—the current system offers a “lose-lose” financial proposition to high schools and postsecondary institutions alike. If we want students to reap the benefits of these programs, we must change the financing model, and make other policy and regulatory changes to increase offerings and participation across the state.

In addition while existing CTE and pre-apprenticeship programs[39] do a good job of integrating high school experience with post-secondary credentialing, a recent analysis of Michigan’s secondary Career-Technical Education system notes wide variations in local financial support and program offerings hurt the opportunity to engage more students in these high-quality “in-demand” career technical programs (a key priority of the Snyder Administration).[40] As Exhibit 29 reflects, only 23,000 Michigan high school students complete a Career-Technical program each year. Michigan must also expand quality secondary Career-Technical programs that are closely aligned with postsecondary technical training programs and credentials.

Policy Recommendations to Increase Postsecondary Participation for Michigan Youth.

Connect more Michigan youth to postsecondary credentialing by providing better preparation, guidance and financial support; increase the number of high school students engaged in CTE, early college credit-taking, and earning postsecondary credits. Ensure enhanced guidance, preparation and financial support is focused on closing enrollment gaps among low-income and minority students. Specific policy recommendations:[41]

  • Include in high school accountability systems improving college readiness, enrollment, and completion metrics.
  • Continue work to align K-12 assessments with postsecondary institution’s entry/readiness requirements. Encourage voluntary local K-12/higher education partnerships to share results from postsecondary readiness assessments with sending K-12 districts to improve programs, and administer a common assessment for determining the need for postsecondary remediation, and to support early intervention strategies in high school.
  • Expand capacity of high schools to provide high-quality college counseling and postsecondary advising for Michigan students, including a new state Michigan School Counselor Reinvestment grant program to hire more school counselors, with the purpose of increasing the availability of counseling on college/career readiness and transitions.
  • Ensure school counselors are better prepared to provide college and career counseling through changes in their preparation and ongoing professional development, including attention to effective counseling for poor, minority and first-time college goers.
  • Create a simplified, consolidated, enhanced need-based financial aid program that puts Michigan among the top ten states in financial aid. This would mean that, over time, Michigan grows its state financial aid commitment to $480 million dollars annually. A simple and effective way to share this aid would be to provide a minimum, need-based award to students at any Michigan public or independent college, university, or community college, willing to work hard and succeed at earning degrees and certificates.
  • Maintain Michigan’s effective college access infrastructure, through continued or expanded support for the Michigan College Access Network.
  • Build a better, user-friendly public information tool and “Pure Michigan” style web presence to promote postsecondary education, supported by high-quality student information systems to enable students and families to find institutions and programs that will best serve their needs, and determine pathways and transfer arrangements among institutions. Use system to encourage “high-road” aspirational education paths for all students.
  • Eliminate restrictive rules and eligibility requirements regarding dual enrollment that curb participation and confuse practitioners. Establish early/middle college and concurrent credit options in existing dual enrollment statute with clear quality criteria, to encourage participation, diminish confusion and ensure quality learning programs.
  • Institute policy enablers that expand post-secondary early credit opportunities, and ensure they serve high-achieving as well as underrepresented and low-income students. Changes include allowing: high achieving students to graduate early; students to apply college level courses to high school requirements; a five year time frame for high school graduation; and inclusion of metrics in the high school accountability framework around early college participation, including traditional, minority, and at-risk students.
  • Create a financing system that supports and incents participation in early postsecondary credit-taking among secondary and postsecondary institutions, and serves to dramatically expand student participation in Michigan.
  • Continue funding enhancements and expand geographic coverage of quality Career-Technical Education programs.

Increase Postsecondary Participation: Adults

Michigan has, at 25%, a relatively high share of adults with some postsecondary education experience but no degree, and likely most without even a certificate to help them succeed at getting a good job.[42] There remain extant mismatches between technically demanding good jobs and the pool of workers to fill them. Adults are far and away the largest single cohort of citizens who, if supported in achieving workforce relevant credentials, can advance Michigan’s overall goal of 60% of our population with valuable degrees and credentials.

Successful engagement of adult learners in our postsecondary education and job training system faces many obstacles. Many working age adults require basic education and job skills training before being able to move to technical and credit-earning programs. That and the pressures of family and working while learning pose obstacles that must be attended to by effective programs and institutions. Financial pressures and the cost of postsecondary education can also discourage adult learners, and are exacerbated by the fact that over the past ten years, Michigan has reduced state financial aid[43] and eliminated several adult serving programs.[44]

However, as seen in Michigan and elsewhere, there are successful models to engage learners in postsecondary education that, if scaled up, can support many more adults in earning valuable certificates and credentials.

Michigan’s own Kalamazoo Promise and other Promise programs show the power of a simple post-secondary guarantee to engage learners. Tennessee’s guarantee of free community college has proven similarly powerful in motivating participation in higher education. Michigan demonstrated several years ago in its No Worker Left Behind Program that a simple, easy to understand guarantee of a free community college or a technical degree program could dramatically increase the number of adult learners who re-engage to earn an economically valuable credential. An additional advantage to these guarantee programs for adult learners, is that they can largely be paid for by braiding together existing workforce, higher education financial aid, and other funding streams.

Other effective approaches to engaging adults include intensive job and basic skill training partnership programs for the adults most disconnected from labor market, such as Earn and Learn Detroit, and Pathways to Success in Grand Rapids. Integrating adult basic education and GED programs into credit and credential earning Career Pathway programs can also improve outcomes for participants. The institutional success strategies being deployed by Michigan’s higher education institutions are another means to provide the quick basic skill-building, career path guidance, and the support that are needed and effective for many adult learners. Also Michigan’s Skilled Trades and STEM employment programs are beginning to show gains in preparing workers in much-needed technical fields.

Policy Recommendations to Increase Postsecondary Participation for Adults

Provide a strong and simple financial guarantee for adult learners to re-engage with postsecondary credentialing; provide better guidance and user-friendly information on engaging and navigating the system; support and expand effective and integrated basic education and skilled workforce training programs.[45]

  • Coordinate programs and funding from a number of workforce and credentialing programs to create a “Michigan Promise”, a new Adult Training Scholarship that makes the equivalent of two years of community college tuition free for adults willing to work hard at earning degrees and certificates in key regionally-determined occupations. This scholarship will provide up to $5,000 dollars for workers to apply toward earning a credential or certificate in regionally determined workforce-needed occupations, linked to program progression and completion. This program will support participation in and expansion of existing employer-driven, credentialing programs such as traditional apprenticeship programs, postsecondary CTE, Skilled Trades, and the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership.
  • Build a better, user-friendly public information tool and “Pure Michigan” style web presence to promote postsecondary education, supported by high-quality student information systems to enable students to find institutions and programs that will best serve their needs, and determine pathways and transfer arrangements among institutions.
  • Expand the Skill Trades Training Fund, aiding recipients in earning industry-recognized credentials, as determined by regional talent, economic and workforce development organizations.
  • Connect existing adult basic education programs and public-private basic skill enhancement programs with credit and credential/certificate earning career path programs at Michigan community colleges.

Ensure Postsecondary Completion and Success

For too long higher education institutions were designed for access versus success, offering learners too many choices, too little counseling and guidance, and unclear paths to a goal. Many learners get lost in a maze, waste time and money, and never finish a credential. Youth and adults alike are more likely to complete credentials of value if their path is efficient, there are clear pathways to credentials in which learners can build on prior learning, “stack” their credential earning, and expend no wasted time or money heading down educational blind alleys or accumulating excess credits.[46] Throughout their postsecondary journey, learners must be able to transfer seamlessly among higher education institutions, and be aided if they choose to reap the benefits of starting at a lower-cost institution, transferring to complete higher level programs, and in the process reducing total cost and debt burdens. Recent research shows that it is those who do not complete a degree or credential, often racking up high debt burdens, who do not realize the real long-term economic return on investment gained by those who do complete.[47]

Nationally, one-third of undergraduate students study at more than one college or university. Recent research from the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) indicates 45% of four-year degrees nationally—and 42% in Michigan—are awarded to students with previous enrollment in a two-year institution. As we have seen minorities, poor, and adult students are much more likely to start their postsecondary education at a community college – the groups where Michigan must most dramatically increase postsecondary attainment. Research shows completion success rates improve by completing degrees and then transferring. A recent NSC report indicates that 72% of students who have their associate degree complete their baccalaureate degree compared to 56% with no two-year credential.

Historically, there has been limited information to understand in detail transfer patterns in Michigan. With the development of the State longitudinal data system through CEPI, we are beginning to understand student mobility between postsecondary institutions in the State. Initial data indicate that 16,887 students in 2012-13 transferred from community colleges to a four-year institution. Of these students, 10,050 transferred to one of the 15 public universities, another 3,722 went to an independent college or university, and 3,115 transferred outside of the state.[48] Community college data reported to the state Workforce Development Agency suggests that over 100,000 community college students were enrolled in programs that are oriented toward transfer.[49] These data point to a considerable gap between students’ interest in programs designed specifically for transitioning to a baccalaureate program (based on community college program enrollments) and the number of students who actually successfully transferred to a public or private university.

Other states have well-articulated course acceptance agreements, roadmaps, incentives, and structures to encourage timely credit and degree completion linked to transfer, boosting overall credential attainment rates. Michigan has taken steps forward with Reverse Transfer (i.e. retroactively awarding associate degrees to student that transferred to a four-year university and subsequently earned the credits needed to complete the two-year degree) and Project Win-Win that reaches out to students who have attained substantial credits but no degree, awarding them an earned but unclaimed credential. Michigan also implemented the Michigan Transfer Agreement in the fall of 2014 that laid out 30 hours of general education coursework that participating institutions in the state must accept in whole upon transfer. Still, Michigan must go much further to facilitate seamless movement among its institutions if its post-secondary credential attainment goal is to be reached.

Beyond streamlining the postsecondary transfer and mobility process, there are additional challenges to overcome to deliver “success” and completion of credentials. Academically, many students, young and working adult, are not prepared for postsecondary education, which increases their likelihood of failure. Forty-one percent of low-income adult students require remedial coursework, 32% of other adults need remedial coursework, and 31% of traditional students require this type of work.[50] At Michigan community colleges, 60% of new entrants require remedial assistance.

Adult learners, a large and growing share of all learners, face additional obstacles to success. Many of these students, approximately 40%, in addition to taking classes, are working full time.[51] Forty percent of adult low income students are single parents who must not only work, but care for their families,[52] creating difficulty in not only completing work, but also in finding time in their schedule to attend class.

In recent years, a set of institutional success strategies have been developed and implemented that demonstrate the ability to improve student success, as seen in the increase of 8% over five years in Michigan community college students graduating with a degree or successful transfer to a four-year institution. These success strategies include guided pathways, which move students more quickly to programs of study with meta-majors in topics like business and health, and integrated student supports. Other strategies include much clearer roadmaps and guidance to success and completion, including since winter 2013, 342 students who have earned credentials through Michigan Pathways to Credentials, designed to create better career pathway programs helping low-skilled adults address basic-skill needs and earn “stackable” credentials as they progress to credit-bearing courses.

Additional demonstrated high-impact success strategies such as accelerated or fast-track developmental education, student success courses, supplemental instruction, structured group learning experiences, enhanced advising, and goal setting and planning; among others—have been implemented by institutions in Michigan and across the country. As the experience of leading institutions such as Arizona State, Georgia Tech, and City Colleges of Chicago, and the success of Michigan’s own community colleges in raising completion rates by 8% over the past five years demonstrates, these proven practices pay high-return, particularly for adults, minorities, and other learners historically less successful in earning credentials. These practices need robust institutional support, strategic investment (that can pay a significant return), and a policy environment and support structure that foster implementation at scale.

Policy Recommendations to Ensure Completion and Success[53]

Make the higher education system work to ensure success and credential-earning by improving postsecondary articulation; transfer; and mobility; including better information tools to support navigation, making movement to and through postsecondary education more efficient, less costly, and more likely to result in successful credential-earning. Put in place robust institutional completion and “success” strategies, and integrate “siloed” resources to ensure all postsecondary “learners” become postsecondary credential “earners”, and to close attainment gaps by race, gender, and income; as well as improving the attainment rates for all learners.

  • Develop, fund, and support a “student-friendly” statewide transfer data functionality – as part of a “Pure Michigan” style web presence to promote postsecondary education, providing information about transferability, acceptance of courses and credits among and between institutions.[54]
  • Further streamline the transfer of credits, programs, and credentials by: extending the MTA to transitions among all institutions; establishing a more seamless transfer of the associate degree and creating transfer pathways as 37 other states have done (which will work to aid poor and minority learners to higher attainment levels); establishing “meta-majors” to provide clear and achievable programmatic pathways; and creating a clearer process for identifying/standardizing course equivalencies.
  • Promote strategies that reconnect with adults with some college, but no degree, such as Reverse Transfer and Project Win-Win.
  • Encourage institutions to implement and communicate outcomes generated by high yield practices through transparent reporting and accountability systems.
  • Provide strategic investments and incentives for high-yield institutional success strategies including a new Completion Innovation State Grant Competition, a State grant competition that encourages and rewards institutions implementing robust success strategies.
  • Create and support Statewide structures that help institutions deploy success strategies. Maintain the Michigan Center for Student Success, which supports Michigan’s community colleges in organizing and implementing student success strategies, and links them to effective state and national models and practice. Organize a corollary effort among the state’s 15 public universities under the leadership of the Michigan Association of State Universities to help support these institutions in implementing high-yield success strategies that help them close their achievement gaps.
  • Identify and integrate underutilized State cross-agency resources that can support elements of student success strategies, including TANF, social services, and other sources that might be bundled and integrated to support success strategies, such as counseling and advising, dealing with day-to-day financial issues and crisis, transportation etc.[55]

Strategic Success Enablers

The high-yield strategies and policies recommended in this report to improve postsecondary participation and completion, must then be supported by the key information, financing , and collaborative policy-making infrastructures that help deliver a “smarter”, higher-performing system. Michigan must:

  • Improve Performance Information to Guide System. Michigan must track the right performance metrics and use these metrics to guide ongoing policy and decision-making, and system improvement.
  • Invest Strategically. Michigan needs a more strategic postsecondary financing system that supports affordable access, competitive institutions, seamless movement, and strategic high-yield programs and infrastructures that contribute to the completion of credentials.
  • Drive Postsecondary Performance with an ongoing Public-Private Stakeholder Guiding Group. The recently created Michigan Higher Education Partnership Council, under BLM’s leadership, can be such a valuable forum to promote needed public policy change, implement changes, and guide the system and its improvement on an ongoing basis.

Improve Performance Information to Guide System

Michigan has enhanced its State Longitudinal Data System and individual data tracking from K-12 to include performance of key aspects of postsecondary education. There is also growing effort on the part of the Snyder Administration to integrate information across programs and silos, to better understand the needs and impacts of programs on citizens. There are a number of enhancements to this work that can be made to implement the recommendations in this report, and to improve our understanding of how our learners are doing, the effectiveness of the system, and as a guide to inform and improve policy making and overall system performance.

Policy Recommendations to Enhance Michigan’s Data and Performance Information System[56]

In order to help Michigan institutions and policy makers better align programming and improve overall performance, a number of important additions to our current performance information system are recommended, as well as new uses for this data to help track and reach regional, institutional, and statewide attainment goals.

  • Incorporate early college credit taking data, and career and college readiness metrics. Track and report high school graduates that: Score 3,4, 5 on an AP exam; 4,5,6, 7 on IB exam; earn at least three transcripted college credit hours (dual credit); or MDE-approved industry certification.
  • Track and report additional metrics for gauging progress toward and performance in achieving postsecondary degrees and certificates, as called for in this report, including: the share of enrolled high school seniors completing FAFSA, and for all public and independent institutions, the share of adults participating in postsecondary.
  • Update completion measures to include all valuable postsecondary workforce credentials and add additional Michigan Community College performance metrics: percent of students referred to developmental education who complete gateway courses; percent of credit hours successfully completed in the first term; percent of students who were retained from fall (term one) to their next academic term; percent of students who complete a certificate or degree, or transferred after two years and six years.
  • Update completion measures to include all valuable postsecondary workforce credentials and add additional Colleges and University metrics: first-year retention rates; six-year completion rates; and new Student Achievement Measures that track the percent of students who complete a degree, transfer, or are still enrolled.
  • Connect this data to secondary schools, in order to link later credential-earning performance with the educational preparatory system.
  • Integrate workforce wage record data and employment labor market outcomes to the system. Extend system so full information linking secondary and postsecondary institutions with degrees/certificates and occupation, and with employment status and earnings is made available to inform and guide policy making.
  • Package data, and support institutional and regional economic and workforce development partners for use in defining their own goals, targets, and policy approaches, including disaggregated data by region, race, age, and income.
Invest Strategically

Michigan has begun to reinvest in higher education and has developed performance-based funding elements for both universities and community colleges that encourage attention and actions around key performance drivers. Still, Michigan’s higher education financing could benefit from a more coherent strategy. Michigan needs a framework and a more strategic approach that puts higher education in reach of more Michigan citizens; encourages higher education to work smarter; fosters alignment and collaboration among Michigan’s higher education institutions to achieve better performance and outcomes, and makes the strategic investment called for in this report to support the achievement of a state goal of seeing more citizens earn credentials and degrees of value.

A more strategic Michigan higher education financing “system” will:

  • Provide stronger financial aid that supports individual access to higher education, for both youth and adults, without compounding tuition costs and debt levels. Business Leaders for Michigan’s recent report calls for actions to make Michigan a Top Ten state for higher education access and affordability. Today, Michigan is 41st in the nation in financial aid for students, and student debt has increased 48% in the last four years alone.[57] The state appropriates only $105 million in financial aid while public and independent colleges and universities provide $900 million of institutional financial aid to students. This fact combined with reduced state investment in higher education during the recession has seen university tuition rates double — Michigan is 6th in nation for highest tuition rates, and has the 7th highest average student debt. Given the decline in real incomes for most all Michiganders and the challenges poor, minority, and other students have in affording postsecondary education, enhanced financial aid is central to improving overall attainment numbers.
  • Continue recent budget priority and increased financial commitment for Michigan’s higher educational institutions to perform their critical mission(s), and be competitive with higher education institutions in other states. Michigan is 43rd in the nation for cost-adjusted total educational appropriations (i.e., to community colleges, universities, and public financial aid) per FTE in FY2014. That equates to $1,787 per student below the national average.[58]Within the last ten years (FY2007 to FY2016), public university appropriations have fallen $72.6 million in nominal dollars, or $319.1 million in real dollars, or 20%. The state has provided four straight years of direct university operations increases, but the most recent year’s increase (FY2016) was only 1.5%, a less than inflationary increase. Nine universities are still below the nominal state appropriations they received prior to the reductions of FY2012. Today State funding accounts for an average of 21% of each university’s operations funding, leaving the balance to be covered by tuition and fees.

Community College funding has also been diminished. These institutions on balance have fewer resources today to serve a larger number of at-risk students than ten years ago. Community college revenues from state appropriations have fallen from 33% to 19% since 2000, and state aid per full-time equivalent student is just over $2,000, down from a peak of $3,350 in 2001. In 2014-15, the appropriations for community colleges did increase by 3%, or $8.9 million dollars. When including state operations payments and payments for retirement liabilities, community colleges appropriations are up almost 30% compared to FY2011. Still, diminished resources over the years have led to very significant growth in the share of adjunct versus full-time faculty, adjunct faculty who are less able — due to their difficult employment circumstances (low wages, working multiple jobs, no office space, nor time for engaging students) —to support learners (particularly at-risk learners) as they would like, contributing to increased student attrition and reduced completion rates.[59]

Financing Policy Recommendations[60]

  • Create a simplified, consolidated, enhanced need-based financial aid program that puts Michigan among the top ten states in financial aid. This would mean, over time that Michigan increases its state financial aid commitment to $480 million dollars annually. A simple and effective way to share this aid would be to provide a minimum, need-based award to students at any Michigan public or independent college, university or community college, willing to work hard and succeed at earning degrees and certificates. This would complement a new Michigan “Promise”: Adult Training Scholarship for adult learners, financed from existing workforce and related funding streams.
  • Continue annual increases in university and community college institutional funding towards making Michigan higher education funding competitive again with leading states.
  • Make strategic and modest state investments in a more effective, efficient and “smarter” higher education system by developing the policy enablers and new infrastructures called for in this report. These high yield programs include:[61]
    • Michigan School Counselor Reinvestment Program,
    • Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) support,
    • “Pure Michigan” Postsecondary Education Promotion and Information Tool, Web-Presence, and Transfer Portal,
    • Enhanced funding for Early Postsecondary Credit Earning models and Career-Technical Education programs,
    • Completion Innovation State Grant Competition,
    • Extensions to the State Longitudinal Data System.

Create a Public-Private Stakeholder Guiding Group

Michigan’s autonomously governed public universities, community colleges and private colleges and universities collectively represent a tremendous state resource. These institutions have been the source of tremendous creativity and innovation, and have served as pathways to economic opportunity for generations of Michigan citizens.

And while these institutions’ autonomy brings many strengths — including the ability to quickly respond to learner’s needs and local and statewide challenges — a decentralized system can make it difficult to advance collective State priorities in higher education. As is evident in this report, the State of Michigan has tremendous economic stake in achieving a shared goal of helping 60% of our citizens achieve necessary postsecondary credentials. Many of the core strategies recommended in this report call for new levels of partnership and collaboration among our higher education institutions in furthering this common goal. Further, the newly re-elected Snyder Administration has made it a priority to organize effective workforce responses to the needs of Michigan employers at the State and regional levels, and a priority to prepare the talent needed to propel Michigan to economic leadership in the 21st century, as it once dominated the 20th Century.

The authors of this report are not recommending changes in the governance or structure of higher education in Michigan. We do, however, believe the ongoing, systematic improvement of the performance of postsecondary education requires more than episodic calls to action by key stakeholders. That is why we applaud the recent creation, under the leadership of Business Leaders for Michigan, of the Michigan Higher Education Partnership Council as a durable, voluntary public-private partnership of key stakeholders to accelerate collaboration and improve the performance of our state’s higher education system.[62]

Policy Recommendation: Encourage the Michigan Higher Education Partnership Council to Drive Progress Towards Michigan’s Credential Attainment Goal

To improve the overall performance of our higher education and related workforce efforts, maximize the impact of public investments in these institutions, better serve the citizens who finance and attend them, and ensure the support for the necessary strategic investments in higher education called for in this report, the stakeholders who came together to forge this plan, are eager to support an ongoing public-private collaborative effort to improve postsecondary education attainment.

The recently created Michigan Higher Education Partnership Council is a promising voluntary partnership of business, government and college/university leaders aimed at boosting the economic contributions of Michigan’s higher education sector. It announced several objectives consonant with this report; including defining Michigan’s future talent needs and helping the state’s colleges and universities address them. The Partnership Council can be an important forum to continuously advance policies and practices that support improved postsecondary education attainment, and assist Michigan to reach a goal for postsecondary credential attainment that puts it among the top performing states. We encourage the Council to engage and work with additional higher education stakeholders to advance, advocate, and support the goal and recommendations of this report, and to continuously develop and collaborate in additional policies, programs, and partnerships that increase postsecondary credential attainment in Michigan.

Getting to the Goal