Michigan Ranks Near Bottom in U.S. for College Affordability

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Michigan ranks 47th in the nation for higher education affordability, followed by Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Vermont, says DÄ“mos, a New York City-based public-policy organization.

According to the report, written with support from the Troy-based Kresge Foundation, the average tuition for a public, four-year college in Michigan in 2011-’12 was $10,527, up 15 percent from the 2007-’08 school year. State funding also dropped about 34 percent during this time. In comparison, the national average for tuition was $7,701 in 2011-’12.

“If you want to make Michigan globally competitive, nationally competitive in the 21st century, we’re going to have invest more in education,” says Bill Moses, managing director of education at the foundation. “It’s going to be difficult for Michigan to become one of the better educated states in the country if we’re investing less in higher education on a per capita basis than states like Mississippi, Arkansas, or West Virginia, let alone states with really high college completion rates, like Massachusetts.”

Michigan isn’t the only state facing increases in tuition cost coupled with decreases in public funding, according to the report. On average, tuition costs have risen 20 percent from 2008 to 2012 in the country, and every state — with the exception of North Dakota — spends less per student on higher education than before the Great Recession. In fact, 28 states cut spending by more than 25 percent during this time.

The DÄ“mos study also found that tuition at four-year public universities now averages 15 percent of the median family income in 26 states, and nearly 23 percent of the median family income in Michigan.

“The diminishing affordability of higher education is eroding one of the last secure pathways into the middle class,” says Robert Hiltonsmith, policy analyst and co-author of the study. “The growth of the debt for diploma system has only intensified since the Great Depression.”

However, that’s not to say Michigan can’t improve. “If the state decides to prioritize higher education, it can make a huge difference,” Moses says. “States that have prioritized higher education have generally fared better during the recession and are better able to attract global businesses and retain talent.”

Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed fiscal year 2015 budget — released in February — calls for an additional $80.3 million, or a 6.1 increase, for Michigan’s 15 public universities and $8.9 million more, a 3 percent increase, for community colleges. Per the proposed budget, schools would be required to limit tuition increases to 3.2 percent or less in order to receive the funding increases.

To read the full report — which ranked Wyoming No. 1 in terms of higher education affordability, followed by Alaska, Florida, and Utah — click here.

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