Michigan’s higher education institutions are not just the academic centers of our state, they are also important economic drivers of its economy. Step 4 of the Michigan Turnaround Plan (MTP) calls for Michigan to prioritize state investments in the areas that will promote the greatest economic growth, so it’s no surprise that higher education has a prominent place in our 2012 Michigan Turnaround Plan. In fact, higher education is also included in the New Michigan strategy (Step 6 of the MTP), as one of Michigan’s six distinctive assets that can drive future economic growth.
Our universities, considered some of the finest in the world, drive talent production. Here in Michigan, we graduate a higher percentage of students than the national average in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines.
Our higher education institutions are also driving innovation. In 2009, Michigan’s universities ranked 10thin the nation in research and development spending at $1.7 billion. This level of investment is important because it fuels patent development, business start-ups and ultimately more jobs. In fact, between 2004 and 2008, Michigan ranked in the top 5 for patent activity and business start-ups.
Our universities spur economic growth. A 2002 study by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation put the total economic impact of Michigan’s public universities at almost $40 billion – at that time representing 12.6% of Michigan’s gross state product. In 2010, Michigan’s major research universities alone had an estimated economic impact of $15.2 billion, equal to 4% of our gross state product.
We believe these numbers will grow if we invest in our universities and increase their ability to attract more research dollars, increase innovation, and create more businesses. To realize this potential, we need a long-term, shared commitment to higher education from both the state and our public higher education institutions.
From the state, we are seeking a commitment to make higher education a higher priority in the budget. This will help make college more affordable for hundreds of thousands of Michigan young people.
From our universities, we are looking for dedicated efforts to control costs, leading to more affordable tuition bills. Our universities also need to increase research and development efforts to best-in-class status and partner with businesses to increase industry-supported research and development, so we can put that ingenuity to work right here in Michigan.
The goal of the MTP is to make Michigan a “Top Ten” state for job, economic and personal income growth. Thanks in great part to the difficult work done by our leaders in Lansing over the past year, much of the original plan has been fully or partially achieved. We have begun to see some evidence of an economic turnaround with lower unemployment, higher economic growth and rising incomes.
While work remains on fiscal, budget, tax and business climate reforms, those measures alone are insufficient for Michigan to become a “Top Ten” state in today’s economy. The regions around the nation and the globe that have been most economically successful leverage their unique assets to drive economic growth.
As our chief producer of talent, one of our main sources of innovation, and as a powerful driver of Michigan’s economy, our higher education system is one of Michigan’s MOST valuable assets.