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President Calls on States to Prioritize Higher Education, Michigan Poised to Be Leader

From the Michigan Senate Democratic Caucus
Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer said today that Michigan can be a national trailblazer in increasing access to college following President Obama’s emphasis on higher education in his State of the Union address last night. The Michigan Senate Democrats recently announced their Michigan 2020 Plan to offer free college tuition to all Michigan high school graduates at no additional cost to taxpayers, which would be the first program of its kind in the country.

“Last night, President Obama specifically called on state governments to make higher education a higher priority. With this plan, Michigan can take immediate action to do so,” said Sen. Whitmer. “The Michigan 2020 Plan outlines a clear vision for the future that will boost our economy and make us a leader in higher education. The President called on Congress to help reduce student loan debt—we want to go even further and eliminate the need for student loans altogether.”

One of the most daunting challenges facing nearly all Michigan families today is being able to afford sending their kids to college. For our young people, their biggest concern is getting a college degree without accumulating a mountain of debt that will hang over their heads for the rest of their lives.

In his State of the Union address last night, President Obama stressed the importance of investing in higher education. He noted that Americans today “owe more in tuition debt than credit card debt.” President Obama said that higher education “is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford” and called on states to “do their part by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets.”

“In his State of the Union, President Obama called on Congress to work together in a bipartisan fashion to make higher education and reducing student debt a priority, and we should do the same here in Michigan,” said Whitmer. “I urge Governor Snyder and my Republican colleagues to support the Michigan 2020 Plan and join us in changing Michigan’s economic landscape for the better forever.”

The Michigan 2020 Plan would provide Michigan high school graduates—public, private or home-schooled—with the opportunity to have the cost of their college education paid for in its entirety. Those who spend their entire K-12 career in Michigan schools would be eligible for the full award, equating to the median tuition level (currently $9,575/year) of all of Michigan’s public universities. Those who attended school outside of Michigan for a period of time during their K-12 years would be eligible for a percentage of that full amount.

The Michigan 2020 Plan is in line with many studies that say a college degree is the key to economic success, and has the support of leading economists and business leaders. More importantly, the plan would come at no additional cost to taxpayers and instead be funded entirely by eliminating ineffective tax loopholes for special interests and cutting costs within the thousands of contracts the state currently administers.

Details of the Michigan 2020 Plan are available online at