Behind Illinois. Behind Minnesota. For Indiana, for Pennsylvania, for New York, for Wisconsin, for Ohio.

And not for long. The latter is a lot.

These Great Lakes states have invested an average of $ 6,000 per student over the past 20 years. Michigan’s average investment during this time among students at public universities is $ 4,500. This is a 30 percent gap between Michigan and the states with which we regularly fight for talent, jobs and economic growth.

Do you know where else Michigan is behind? College graduates. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Michigan is in the bottom third of states for a bachelor’s degree, and only 28 percent of all residents over the age of 25 have at least a bachelor’s degree. The national average is 34 percent. This is a big gap. The future economic health of Michigan and the U.S. economy depends on an educated workforce with high-tech skills that are in demand by employers from Ford and GM, Kellogg and Steelcase, Microsoft and Google.

This is a crisis and we need to fix it. By us I mean politicians of our state, teachers, parents, relatives and friends. We need to invest in the next generation of high school graduates to protect them from those economic shocks that many of us have experienced. During the last recession, high school graduates had an unemployment rate above 17 percent, while only 8 percent of college graduates were unemployed.

We also need to invest in adults who aspire to get a degree and a better job. After all, the average salary of those with a bachelor’s degree is 59 percent higher than the salary of those who have just graduated from high school. In Michigan, 80 percent of the lowest-paying jobs are held by people with higher education and fewer – and there are fewer and fewer such jobs every year.

The transformation of the automotive industry and the revival of high-tech manufacturing in the United States present a unique opportunity. But we must act now. It’s no secret that employers find a place where skilled talent is available. But with insufficient investment in higher education, we are sending a signal to the next generation that college is not a priority.

Over the past 20 years, nearly $ 1 billion in equivalent has been removed from state-funded universities. Students and families had to gain slack, pay more out of pocket. Instead of helping families who want to send their children to college, the lack of support from the state has led to a widening gap between those who have funds and those who do not.

It’s time to reverse this trend. This year, Governor Gretchen Whitmer proposed the most reliable allocation of universities in decades. She also recommended the five lowest-funded regional campuses receive additional government assistance to bring their funding in line with their admissions.

Michigan has huge opportunities for its next economic revival. The latest announcements from Michigan’s Central Innovation District and the nation’s first public wireless electric car charging system in Detroit show the state’s assets and potential. However, Michigan cannot realize this enormous potential while the latter in investing in education. We need an educated workforce so we can compete and win in the new economy. Only then will we be able to attract new and high-tech jobs to our state.

We need to invest in our collective future. We need to invest in Michigan.

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