The Case for Postsecondary Credential Attainment

There is an overwhelming case to be made about the benefits to individuals in the form of more and better jobs and higher incomes, if they earn postsecondary education credentials. There is also powerful evidence linking better educated citizens and the state’s economic growth and competitiveness. Better educated people are also happier, healthier, and more engaged with their families, and in civic life.

More Michigan citizens with higher education degrees, certificates and other credentials of value make Michigan and our people more competitive.

As Exhibit 9 demonstrates, states with the highest per capita incomes and growing incomes today are strongly correlated with the highest education attainment rates.

Individuals with postsecondary credentials do better for themselves and their families, earn higher incomes, and are more likely to have and hold jobs.

In 2013 median weekly earnings were $150 greater for those with an associate degree compared to those with just a high school diploma. Those with a bachelor’s degree earned over $400 more or almost double the earnings in a year. The gap in earnings between a family of two college graduates and a family of only high school graduates has grown $30,000 over the last dozen years, after inflation.[11]

Unemployment rates in 2013 were 11.8% for those with less than a high school diploma, 3.8% for those with an associate degree, and 2% or less among those with a professional degree.

Better educated people make more with a degree or postsecondary credential, than without one, even if they are working in an occupation that does not require an advanced degree.

Why? Whether a construction worker, police officer, plumber, retail sales person, or a secretary, higher levels of education help people do higher-skilled work, get jobs with a better-paying company, and increases their likelihood of becoming entrepreneurs and opening their own businesses.[12]

Improved credential attainment helps us meet current and future employer demands and needs.

According to the 2013 report “Job Growth and Education Requirements through 2020”[13] 70% of Michigan jobs in 2020 will require some level of education beyond high school. Even in a re-booting economy like that of Michigan today, the State estimates there are now 70,000 jobs with Michigan employers that are not matched by the right skills and credentials among workers, including 5,000 high-paying skilled trades jobs.[14]

Better educated and trained citizens are more likely to create new businesses and jobs.

Communities with better high school graduation and postsecondary education attainment rates are also the communities that see more entrepreneurial growth.[15] Communities with higher levels of education attainment produce and attract better educated entrepreneurs,[16] who in turn are more likely to hire additional workers, pay higher salaries, and start firms that have stronger survivorship rates than others opening a new business.[17]

Better educated people contribute to increased overall economic growth and “lifting all boats.”

Business Leaders for Michigan’s (BLM) recent study finds increasing out-of-state-enrollments at our public universities to peer averages would increase state GDP by up to $200 million and add an additional 40,000 new jobs by 2022.[18] According to a study by Tim Bartik of the W.E. Upjohn Institute, a one point increase in the percentage of postsecondary educated people lifts their wages 1.5%, and the earning of other citizens by 1.1%.[19] And a one point increase in the percentage of people with post-secondary degrees and credentials increases overall economic growth over ten years by one–half percentage point.[20]

Improving postsecondary attainment, including closing achievement gaps, delivers considerable return on investment for Michigan taxpayers.

If the average person of color, were educated to a level to achieve the same income of his or her white counterparts at any age, total Michigan earnings would increase by 7.5 percent, or $16.2 billion, raising the state’s economic output (GDP) by $31.2 billion.[21]

Higher levels of postsecondary education helps people become tax payers, not a cost to society.

Better educated citizens increase tax revenues for governments, and result in less taxpayer dollars spent on income support programs.
As seen in Exhibit 11, poverty rates, welfare (including public assistance of all forms), and unemployment are dramatically reduced with higher levels of educational attainment.
Thirty percent of Michigan residents with less than a high school education live in poverty, while the rate among bachelor’s degree holders is only 5%.

Postsecondary education increases community, personal, and family well-being.

Better educated citizens are more active citizens, vote more often, volunteer more, have healthier lifestyles, lower health costs, smoke less, and as parents spend more time with their children.[22]

A highly educated citizenry and a commitment to higher education attainment and credentialing give Michigan a better “brand” and is a powerful economic development driver.

Perhaps most importantly, as the Kalamazoo experience has shown, if we send a clear message that we value education, and have a clear game plan to support higher education and credential attainment—Michigan can distinguish itself once again as the “Education State”. A state that is committed to ensuring higher levels of education and opportunity for all of its citizens and a state that attracts learners and well-educated people from around the country and the world. This identification makes Michigan much more attractive to families, firms, investors, and new talent.

Michigan Postsecondary Credential Attainment


Setting a Clear State Vision & Goal