Glen Oaks can make a difference

The State of Michigan’s educational attainment levels and what to do about them is once again called to question by yet another report. This report titled: “Reaching for Opportunity: An Action Plan to Increase Michigan’s Post-Secondary Credential Attainment,” argues that Michigan needs to raise the number of residents with college degrees or technical certificates from 46 percent today to 60 percent in 10 years.

Michigan needs more than $500 million a year to meet this goal. As one reviews the 64-page report, which was, “provided with input from the state’s colleges, universities, business, labor and philanthropic leaders, what emerges is a stark vision of Michigan’s low educational attainment and job prospects for the future compared with other states.” (Bridge Magazine 12/10/15)

“Michigan currently ranks 38th in the nation in personal income and has seen real income fall over the past decade.” John Austin, president of the State Board of Education and facilitator of the Michigan Postsecondary Credential Attainment Workgroup, states, “This is about the most important agenda for Michigan’s economy and people.”

As this writer reported in a recent article, “the time for action to address this significant challenge is now.” The findings of several recent studies and reports all point to the immediate call for action or the state will face a future of underachievement and lower wealth development.

This new report lists six goals:
1. To create a marketing campaign and one-stop web portal that provides postsecondary education guidance to students.
2. Raise the number of high school counselors and college advisors and their training.
3. Triple the number of students in effective early college and career technical education credit-earning programs.
4. Increase and simplify need-based financial aid from the state and the packaging of existing workforce resources for working adults.
5. Streamline the process for transferring credits to four-year universities.
6. Find ways to increase graduation rates for vulnerable students.

To get to the 60 percent of state residents with postsecondary credentials by 2025; 439,000 more students than currently projected will need to earn technical certificate and industry recognized certifications; 64,000 more will need to earn associate degrees; 232,000 more will need to obtain bachelor’s degrees and 45,000 more … graduate degrees. (pg. 26)

The report recommends that the state spend nearly five times as much on need-based financial aid than it currently does annually. Michigan ranks 41st in the nation in the amount it provides for financial aid and has the sixth highest tuition rate. Student debt in Michigan has increased 48 percent in the last four years, making the state’s average student loan debt the seventh highest in the nation.

This community is blessed to have Glen Oaks Community College to help attain the needed additional postsecondary training. GOCC has the lowest tuition in the region and offers significant career-occupational certificates and degrees as well as strong transfer relationships with four-year institutions included three that are hosted on campus. In addition the college enrolls 468 high school students in dual enrollment including 140 in career technical education. Furthermore, the new Early Middle College Program will provide a 13th year funded by the K-12 system enrolling students full-time in GOCC programs. This program promises to greatly increase the higher education attainment level of the St. Joseph County region.

In closing, let it be stated that the goals outlined in this most recent state report, “Reaching for Opportunity,” are being aggressively addressed by Glen Oaks. We invite all citizens to pursue their educational goals via Glen Oaks Vision of “Transforming Lives and Advancing Communities.”

(The entire report can be found at: http://www.issuelab.org/resource/reaching_for_opportunity_an_action_plan_to_increase_michigans_postsecondary_credential_attainment)