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Michigan College Students Face Soaring Tuition, Debt

In Michigan, 62 percent of university students are graduating with debt averaging close to $30,000. (Pixabay)
In Michigan, 62 percent of university students are graduating with debt averaging close to $30,000. (Pixabay)
September 6, 2016

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan college students are digging into the fall semester, but eventually many will be digging themselves out of a mountain of debt.

A report released today by the Michigan League for Public Policy shows 62 percent of university students in Michigan are graduating with debt averaging close to $30,000.

Peter Ruark, a senior policy analyst with the League, says with decreased higher education funding and state financial aid, universities are passing the buck onto students with higher tuition.

"It used to be that the state supported public universities with the idea that this is a social good and that a higher educated workforce was good for the whole state,” he points out. “Now, Michigan's Legislature is funding it at a much lower level."

When adjusted for inflation, Ruark says university funding in Michigan is down about 30 percent since 2003, and financial aid per full-time student is down 55 percent since 1992.

Tuition costs have nearly doubled since 2003, with Michigan ranking sixth nationally for highest university tuition costs.

Ruark says given Michigan's decline in manufacturing, investment in higher education is crucial to ensure the state has an educated workforce for the jobs of the future.

"People could graduate from high school, get a job and get on-the-job training through the years and slowly move up to really good-paying jobs,” he relates. “But now that those kinds of jobs have left people are expected to have a good number of skills even for entry-level jobs."

The report recommends several policy changes to make college more affordable, including making financial aid accessible for part-time students and supporting policies that help low-income students get supports such as food assistance and child care.

Ruark adds the state also should make need-based grants available to older students.

"Individuals over 30 years old in Michigan do not get any state financial aid if they decide to go back to college,” he explains. “Our financial aid in Michigan is only for individuals under 30 who have been out of high school for less than 10 years.”

Ruark notes community colleges in Michigan are doing much better, with the state ranking 34th nationally for highest tuition among community colleges.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI