DETROIT, Mich. — According to a statewide data release issued today by Business Leaders for Michigan (BLM), the state’s public universities have continued their track record of achievement with higher graduation and retention rates, improved student/staff ratios, and growth in the number of degrees awarded, particularly in critical skills areas.
BLM tracks the data as a way to underscore the contributions higher education can make to Michigan’s overall economy. A report issued by the group in early 2015 showed the sector’s potential to help make the state one of the nation’s Top Ten economic performers.
“This year’s results show a higher education sector that’s seizing on some of the most essential work and priorities needed to strengthen Michigan for the long term,” said Doug Rothwell, BLM president and CEO. “They’re growing their enrollments and awarding the degrees our economy needs most. They’re also focused on meeting the needs of individual students in ways that are most likely to ensure their future success—and, thereby, making Michigan stronger too.”
This year’s key findings include:
- Nine of 15 institutions continued to increase their enrollments.
- 11 of 15 have six-year graduation rates that increased during the past year, and 7 have graduation rates that are higher than the U.S. public peer average.
- 11 of 15 institutions grew their student retention rates during the past year, and 10 have retention rates that are equal to or better than their peer average.
- 13 of 15 awarded more critical skills degrees than their peer average, and 100 percent of Michigan institutions have increased their total number of critical skills degrees awarded.
- Similarly, 13 of 15 Michigan institutions have increased the total number of degrees awarded, and 10 of 15 exceed the total degree production of their peers.
- All 15 Michigan public universities have increased the number and percentage of students receiving Pell grants, which means higher education affordability and access are improving.
- Research expenditures are up at 10 of the 15 institutions.
“These results are particularly extraordinary when we consider the economic environment in which these institutions are operating,” Rothwell said. “Without exception, state appropriations for each of Michigan’s public universities dropped during the same time period they were making such hefty contributions to our state’s future prosperity. College costs are rising and, even though we have started reinvesting in our public universities over the last five years, state support is still behind our competitors.”
Rothwell said Michigan ranks 36th among all U.S. states for the amount it appropriates to its public higher education institutions. Even more alarming, our state is 8th worst in the nation for the amount of student debt our public university graduates carry with them after graduation.
“That our public higher education institutions are achieving as well as they are speaks volumes about the innovative strategies and leadership capacity they share,” Rothwell said. “As a state, we simply must do better to prepare the workforce of tomorrow.”
BLM has identified higher education as one of the state’s six New Michigan opportunity areas, indicating it offers strong promise as a driver of statewide prosperity.
BLM’s Michigan Performance Tracker for Public Universities is available at
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