Tim Daman: Now is the Time to Invest in Higher Education

Tim Daman: Now is the Time to Invest in Higher Education
March 15, 2014/Lansing State Journal

By Tim Daman, president and CEO of the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Higher education is the best investment to ensure Michigan’s comeback can be sustained, and now is the time to start investing. Universities and colleges develop the skill set and sharpen the talent that is desperately needed for Michigan’s workforce.

This is precisely why Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed funding hike for universities is a much-needed investment in Michigan’s future.

Most good-paying jobs in Michigan require applicants to have more than a high school education. By making college more affordable, our state can begin to address the skills deficit in its workforce — which is quickly becoming a glaring weakness.

To fully understand this problem, visit the state’s employment website: www.mitalent.org. Each day there are more than 65,000 jobs waiting for qualified applicants.

Michigan’s lingering challenges are not the result of a lack of jobs, they are the result of a lack of education and opportunity.

That is why the time to invest is now.

The economic disparity between those with and without postsecondary education is the largest in U.S. history. For workers between 25 and 34, those with an associate degree will earn an average of $7,000 more each year than their peers with high school diplomas. For those with a bachelor’s degree, average earnings are $17,550 above the high school-only average. Unemployment rates for workers with bachelor’s degrees are 3.8 percent compared with 12.2 percent for high school diploma workers. It’s clear, Michigan needs to invest in young minds to remain globally competitive.

Over the past five years, our state has become more focused than ever on finding return for its investment. In 2012, Michigan universities had a $24 billion economic impact on the state. While there were more than 280,000 students enrolled in higher ed that year, many thousands of others did not pursue higher education because it was not affordable.

The governor’s budget is especially important in mid-Michigan because of Michigan State University and Lansing Community College. In addition to enrolling more than 49,000 students, the 47,000 MSU alumni living in mid-Michigan contributed more than $3 billion to our state’s economy in 2013. Add that to the 20,000 enrolled LCC students and 500,000 LCC alumni and you begin to see why higher education is so important to our region.

The governor’s proposed budget increase will help universities and colleges pave the way to a more prosperous future for our students and the state. It’s where the smart money belongs.