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State higher education incentives should be based on market principles, says Michigan Sen. Wayne Kuipers

Posted by gradefund on December 12, 2008

http://www.mlive.com/flintjournal/voices/index.ssf/2008/08/state_higher_education_incenti.html

State higher education incentives should be based on market principles, says Michigan Sen. Wayne Kuipers

by Wayne Kuipers | Flint Journal guest writer

Monday August 04, 2008, 4:29 AM


Wayne Kuipers

Editor’s note: This is a guest column by State Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland. Under the name “If You Ask Me,” each week The Flint Journal runs a guest column on a topic of interest. Read more by guest columnists.

The Kalamazoo Promise launched a nationwide discussion of private funding for public higher education. And while the program helps many students pursue degrees, efforts to adopt a statewide program still don’t address larger problems.

The legislation in the state Senate to create “Promise Zones” would provide both state and local dollars for many disadvantaged students.

The problem is funds don’t go directly to students, but to the state higher education system.

This limits students’ opportunities to use funds as they see fit. The “Promise Zone” legislation also provides no incentive for students to stay in school beyond their freshmen year.

Given the condition of Michigan’s economy, we need a bold plan making higher education affordable and rewarding students who attain degrees.

Funds should go directly to students. This lets them use our tax dollars to attend the university that best meets their needs. Each school would be compensated based on how many students it attracts and graduates. This puts the onus on universities to provide programs that help students find careers matching today’s marketplace. Ultimately, schools meeting the needs of more students will get higher funding.

The Plan also addresses “brain drain” — students leaving the state upon graduation. Employers often complain of too few qualified employees in Michigan to fill positions.

Under the proposed plan, students who work in Michigan after graduation could get low or interest-free loans to help with college costs. The plan’s primary goal, obviously, is to encourage more Michigan students to go to college by making it more affordable.

I recently presented this plan to Lou Glazier, President of Michigan Future, and members of his board of directors. They, too, share my belief that getting more kids in our universities is tantamount to the state’s economic recovery.

“The most prosperous places in the country are those with the highest proportion of adults with a four-year degree or more. Unfortunately, Michigan ranks 34th in college attainment. So finding better ways of encouraging far more of our kids to graduate from college and stay here after college is economic growth priority No. 1,” said Glazier, whose nonprofit focuses on generating ideas to help the state succeed in the Internet Age.

Of course there are many details left to hash out; including the possibility of providing tax incentives for Michigan companies to hire Michigan graduates. But embarking now on a market-based system that gives high school graduates more options in higher education is good for our educational system and the Michigan economy.

Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, is a state senator.

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