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Cherry and Coleman discuss increasing state's college graduates





If the state is going to remain competitive in the global economy, more students need post-secondary education, Lt. Gov. John Cherry said.

Lt. Gov. John Cherry and President Mary Sue Coleman talk during a media briefing about the quest to double the number of college graduates in Michigan. (Photo by Paul Jaronski, U-M Photo Services)

To that end, he is heading a new commission that will focus on doubling the number of Michigan college graduates during the next 10 years, making the state the national leader in producing college graduates. Cherry met with President Mary Sue Coleman May 18 to discuss the goals and mission of the Cherry Commission on Higher Education and Economic Growth.

He noted that fewer than 22 percent of Michigan adults have bachelor’s or advanced degrees, less than the national average of 26 percent and more than 10 percentage points lower than states that are leading the nation in economic growth.

“We have a real skill gap that we need to address,” Cherry said. Without at least a couple of years of post-secondary education, he said, “you cannot expect to have a meaningful job or career.”

The enrollment capacity at U-M’s Ann Arbor campus is “maxed out,” Coleman said, but the Dearborn and Flint campuses have the infrastructure to support more students. U-M-Flint has about 5,300 students and can accommodate 8,000 to 8,500, she said, and U-M-Dearborn has 8,500 and can support 10,000 to 12,000.

“I’m pretty excited about what we could do on those campuses,” Coleman said.
She said all three campuses need to explore creative solutions for achieving the new state goal, such as outreach efforts and partnerships with other institutions.

Coleman applauded the lieutenant governor’s ideas and said it is important for government to focus on higher education. “This is the future of the economy of the state,” she said.

In the past, higher education was not a necessity for many people in Michigan because of the jobs available through the auto industry, Cherry said. But times have changed, he said.

Reaching the new goal will require better preparation for students and efforts to teach the public about the benefits of post-secondary schooling, Cherry said.

“We have a responsibility to go out and make a case for higher education,” he said.

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