University chiefs: Detroit kids need college prep help

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Detroit Public Schools’ system of educating students isn’t working, and the state’s largest district needs to better prepare students for college so they can contribute to society, two of the presidents of Michigan’s three largest public universities said Tuesday.

Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson said the school system is “failing our kids.”

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel added, “Students who are undereducated will undercontribute to society. We owe them an opportunity to participate.”

Wilson and Schlissel made their comments during a Detroit Economic Club luncheon, when they, along with Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon, spoke about their 10-year collaboration in the University Research Corridor and its impact on Detroit. Their work is outlined in a report issued last week.

The presidents’ comments came the same day that a compromise plan to rescue the financially failing DPS hit several roadblocks. A $617 million package, spread over six bills approved last week by the Michigan House, could reach a total cost of $705 million because of future interest payments, according to the Senate Fiscal Agency.

The Senate adjourned Tuesday without taking a vote on the package, which faces opposition from Democrats and some GOP legislators.

Besides educating students, WSU, UM and MSU are involved in $263 million in Detroit research that includes 95 programs aimed at improving education delivery in the city. They also are helping Detroit students directly through programs that bring them to campus to help prepare them for college, especially for science, technology, engineering and math careers.

Offerings from the three universities include programs to introduce middle school girls to STEM fields and opportunities to visit UM.

There are 4,000 Detroit high school graduates collectively at UM, MSU and WSU.

“But there could be two to three times who are able to do the work. ... We just have to prepare them to be college ready,” Schlissel said.

Simon added: “There’s more than enough work for all of us to do. ... It’s just a matter of getting enough energy in this arena as we can.”