Michigan ranks 15th in college affordability but needs to “significantly increase” its number of graduates to meet workforce demands in the next decade, according to a national study released Wednesday.

The report from the Institute for Research on Higher Education at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education gave Michigan good marks for making two-year colleges affordable, ranking the state third nationally. Community colleges enroll 35 percent of Michigan undergraduates, more than any other type of institution, the report said.

According to the study, the proportion of family income needed to pay for community college costs in Michigan has remained stable since 2008 for lower-income households – those making $30,000 a year or less – at 14 percent. Students need to work an average of 20 hours a week to afford to attend a two-year school in Michigan full-time, the report said.

However, the report said Michigan’s public research universities are less affordable, and becoming more so over time.

The study found that lower-income families would need to spend nearly half of their annual income to cover a full-time education at one of those four-year schools; students would have to work an average of 38 hours a week to attend full-time.

From 2008 to 2013, the percentage of income for those families to attend a public research institution in Michigan edged upward from 27 percent to 28 percent, the study found.

“As Michigan’s knowledge-based economy demands an increasingly educated workforce, the state will need to consider strategies to address gaps in educational attainment and high levels of poverty that may be preventing Michiganders from attaining postsecondary degrees,” the study’s authors wrote.

The state trails nationally in the percentage of adults aged 25-34 with an associate’s degree or higher, at 40 percent compared with 42 percent, the report said.

Michigan lags other states in providing need-based financial aid, offering $145 per student to attend public institutions, compared with the national average of $474, the study said.

According to the report, the most affordable states for higher education, in order, are Alaska, Wyoming, Hawaii, California and New Mexico. The least affordable is New Hampshire, followed by Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Alabama and Vermont.

Among Michigan’s neighbors, Ohio is 45th in affordability, Indiana is 29th and Wisconsin is 27th.

Read or Share this story: