Study: Michigan’s public universities outperform peers

Lauren Abdel-Razzaq
The Detroit News
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Michigan’s 15 public universities are outperforming most peers when it comes to productivity, efficiency and economic impact, according to a study released Thursday by Business Leaders for Michigan.

The business roundtable compiled reports on 30 university metrics, putting them together in its Michigan Performance Tracker for Public Universities. The tool includes data on how much a state invests in public universities, graduation and retention rates, the cost of attendance and degrees awarded in science, technology, engineering and math.

In general, most Michigan universities receive less state funding but produce more degrees and have higher graduation rates then their peers nationally, the study found.

“These outcomes are crucial to the state’s future prosperity,” Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan, said in a statement. “We know the jobs of tomorrow are going to require workers with more education.”

Of the 15 Michigan universities highlighted in the study, 12 are better than average at producing graduates with STEM degrees and eight are among the top 20 percent of schools in the country. Ten are delivering more overall degrees than their peer average, with seven of those among the top 20 percent nationally.

As a group, Michigan’s universities rank sixth overall in total degrees produced and fifth nationally for STEM degrees.

According to a Business Leaders for Michigan report on higher education released earlier this month, 70 percent of jobs in Michigan will require an education beyond high school by 2020.

“It’s also true that people with knowledge and training beyond high school are more likely to be employed, and stand to earn up to twice as much as those without it,” Rothwell said. “These earnings differences are too significant to be ignored — Michigan needs high-quality, high-value institutions of higher learning if we’re going to stay on track to economic growth.”

Rothwell’s organization released the performance tracking tool two days after Gov. Rick Snyder announced $50 million in grants for community colleges to help the schools boost career technical education and skilled trades training. During his 2016 budget presentation earlier this month, the governor stressed the importance of closing the talent gap and meeting the demand for good-paying jobs that require technical skills.

Snyder proposed boosting funding for these educational and skilled trades programs by 75 percent, including programs for students in high school and younger, post-high school education and for those already in the workforce.

Rothwell said getting a four-year degree is also important for filling jobs.

“Despite this level of need, only 37 percent of Michigan workers currently have an education beyond high school,” Rothwell said. “That’s a lot of ground to be made up in a very short amount of time. The higher education performance tracker is built to help us keep focused on our goal of building a stronger, more educated work force.”

The Business Leaders for Michigan study wasn’t all positive.

A review of the data found that 13 of Michigan’s 15 public universities remain below peer average for state funding and nine are higher than the average cost of attendance nationally.

“The data suggest that Michigan universities are providing a higher level of service and more robust student outcomes, but Michigan students are carrying a larger share of the cost of earning a degree compared to students in other states,” said Rothwell. “We need to support our higher education sector with the dollars they need to be truly competitive.”

The study included data from Central Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University, Ferris State University, Grand Valley State University, Lake Superior State University, Michigan State University, Michigan Technological University, Northern Michigan University, Oakland University, Saginaw Valley State University, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, University of Michigan-Dearborn, University of Michigan-Flint, Wayne State University and Western Michigan University

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