Higher education has a prominent place in our 2012 Michigan Turnaround Plan (MTP) because of its value in growing our economy. As previously discussed, Step 4 of the MTP calls for Michigan to prioritize state investments in those areas that will most promote economic growth, including higher education. Step 6 identifies higher education as one of Michigan’s six distinctive assets that can drive future economic growth.
Michigan has some of the finest colleges and universities in the world, and they ARE a major driver of Michigan’s economy.
Our universities drive talent production. In Michigan, we graduate a higher percentage of students than the national average in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines.
Our universities drive innovation. In 2009, Michigan’s universities ranked 10th in Research and Development spending at $1.7 billion. Why is this important? Because this innovation 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 drive 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 can grow if we invest in our universities and grow 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 need a commitment to put a higher priority on higher education in the budget. This will help make college more affordable for hundreds of thousands of Michigan young people.
From our universities, we need a long-term commitment to help make college affordable by controlling costs. Our universities also need to increase research and development efforts to best-in-class status and partner with business to increase industry supported R&D 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 in the past year, much of the original plan has been fully or partially achieved. We have begun to see some evidence of 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.
This year, Michigan took the first steps in recognizing the value of higher education as it relates to the economy by starting to reinvest in this asset based on the performance of these institutions.
As a producer of talent, a source of innovation, and a driver of Michigan’s economy, our system of higher education is one of Michigan’s MOST unique assets. Committing to invest in this tremendous asset over the long-term will help Michigan become a Top Ten state.