The evidence is clear — higher educational attainment translates into more jobs and higher incomes. The salaries of Michiganians significantly improve for those that obtain more than a high school education.

With some college or an associate’s degree, salaries are on average 22 percent higher than those with a high school degree.

For those with a bachelor’s degree or higher, salaries are on average twice those with only a high school degree and they are more likely to be employed than those without any postsecondary education.

Jobs requiring an associate’s degree or higher are growing twice as fast as jobs requiring only a high school diploma.

Higher education has the potential to boost Michigan’s GDP by $200 million and add 40,000 new jobs.

Despite these facts, Michigan has yet to fully recognize the importance of colleges and universities in achieving economic prosperity. Today we rank 26th for the percentage of our workforce with a technical education, 31st for those with an associate’s degree or higher and among the bottom 10 states for college affordability. While 70 percent of all Michigan jobs by 2020 will require some level of education beyond high school, today only 37 percent of Michigan’s working age population has that level of education.

The reality is, we need both more skilled and educated workers if we are to going to create more good paying jobs and raise Michigan’s personal income level above its current level of 35th. During the next decade and beyond, job creators are going to go where the talent is. Today, we’re simply not ready for what’s coming.

Other states and regions are recognizing these facts and acting on the data. They’ve developed partnerships between business, government and colleges and universities to place higher education at the center of their economic growth strategies, keep a college education affordable, increase both in and out of state enrollments to grow the future workforce and improve both education outcomes and administrative efficiency.

Michigan has made progress in recent years reinvesting in higher education to keep costs down and emphasizing the importance of students to get technical skills. But despite this progress, we’re still spending nine times more to house a prisoner than we are to help a student get the education they need to thrive. This just doesn’t make sense.

We collectively need to recognize our higher education system as one of our state’s most powerful economic engines. That is why Business Leaders for Michigan developed a series of strategies for the state, business and colleges and universities to take during the next few years:

Boost higher education access and affordability by increasing higher education funding, strengthening performance-based funding for community colleges, exploring new instructional and administrative efficiencies, and marketing to grow enrollment.

Leverage higher education outcomes by fully embracing performance-based funding, developing alternative delivery and certification methods, and strengthening partnerships and collaboration.

Strengthen the transition from education to employment by developing structures for matching talent demand with supply, expanding supports for internships and career counseling, and tracking placement and other non-degree outcomes.

Help grow economic impact by encouraging higher education to play a greater role in economic development and sharing best practices.

The evidence about the impact of higher education in Michigan is overwhelmingly clear. It’s up to us to recognize, support and take advantage of what it offers us to reach our potential.

Doug Rothwell is president and CEO of the Business Leaders of Michigan.

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