Can States Use Higher Education as an Economic Tonic?

Politicians in three Midwestern states – Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin – have lately been working on plans that are based on the idea that higher education can spur state economies along to better performance. While the details differ somewhat, all are rooted in the concept that increasing the number of residents with college educations is an investment for the government. Put some money in now, get much more money back later.

Will it work?

In Michigan, Governor Jennifer Granholm calls the new Michigan Promise scholarship a cornerstone of her economic plan to revive Michigan’s lagging economy. The program provides a $4,000 scholarship to students who complete two years of post-secondary education at a two- or four-year school in Michigan, public or private, provided that they have a GPA of at least 2.5. In her press release, Governor Granholm stated, “A $4,000 scholarship makes earning a college degree or technical certification a real possibility for every student. It’s an amazing opportunity for our students and a critical necessity for our economy.” This new scholarship is part of an effort by the state to double the number of college graduates within the next decade.