How to Make College More Affordable

How to Make College More Affordable
How to Make College More Affordable
August 13, 2012/Detroit Free Press

Letters To The Editor

The Detroit Free Press editorial "Make higher ed more affordable or pay the price in the future" (July 14) should be required reading for every policymaker in Lansing and every parent of school-age children.

The editorial's central messages -- that going to college is important and that the price is too high -- are not debatable. We know how we got here: years of disinvestment by governors and legislators who have deliberately shifted the cost of college off of taxpayers and onto students and families. Now comes the hard part. What can we do to remedy this horrible result?

Business Leaders for Michigan, an organization of civic-minded business CEOs, has urged Lansing to restore the billion dollars in public support for higher education that was cut in the last decade. Nothing would do more to reduce the cost of attendance for Michigan students.

In return, Business Leaders for Michigan has called for tuition restraint and for better performance by universities. So what can students and families do today to help make college more affordable? Here are my suggestions:

* Shop for college by price. Consider this: Among Michigan's 15 outstanding public universities, the cost of attendance varies by 60%.
* Live at home and attend one of Michigan's great regional public campuses.
* Start at a community college, then transfer.
* Apply early and get into the financial aid queue.
* Get a job on campus.
* Attend full time.

Let me also comment on the editorial's lament that too many Michigan students leave the state for college or employment. At Grand Valley State University, neither of those outcomes is true; 94% of our students are Michigan residents. Among our most recent graduates, 88% are employed or in graduate school; of those working, 84% are pursuing their careers in Michigan.

I thank the Free Press for starting this important conversation. All of us with a stake in the outcome should work together toward the goal of improved college affordability.

Thomas J. Haas
President Grand Valley State University Allendale

Posted on Tuesday, August 14, 2012 (Archive on Tuesday, August 21, 2012)
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