Michigan Officials Discuss Plan to Encourage Students to Study Science, Engineering
MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich.
State officials are refining a plan to offer interest-free loans to students who pursue degrees in science and engineering, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm said recently.
State treasurer Jay Rising is working on details of the initiative, which will include a requirement that people getting the loans remain in Michigan to pursue careers. “If they move somewhere else, all bets are off,” Granholm said.
The governor discussed the plan last month during the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual Mackinac policy conference, which focused on ways to boost Michigan’s competitiveness.
Granholm has made attracting young workers a central theme of her economic program. During the 2003 Mackinac conference, she announced her “cool cities” initiative aimed at making the state’s urban centers more attractive to young adults.
Earlier this year, Granholm set a goal of doubling the state’s percentage of people holding college degrees within a decade. Of 6.4 million Michigan residents over age 25, about 1.4 million — or about 22 percent — have earned at least a bachelor’s degree. The national figure is 26.7 percent.
“We’re in the bottom tier of states in the number of adults with a college education,” Granholm told business and government leaders during a town hall-style meeting recently. “If we double that, we’ll be the smartest state in the nation.”
The state also has offered greater financial assistance to colleges that limit tuition increases.
But it is also important to prepare older workers to make a smooth transition to high-tech employment as global competition eliminates low-skill jobs in the state, Granholm said.
“The most difficult question is that 50-year-old who got displaced” because a factory closed or downsized, she said.
The Department of Labor and Economic Growth will designate a dozen “regional skills alliances” this fall, director David Hollister said. The partnerships between labor, business and community colleges will quickly prepare workers for jobs that become available in particular areas.
“We’re restructuring our whole career education process” through steps such as making it easier for high school juniors to take classes at community colleges, Hollister said.
Many of the 1,700 people attending the conference agreed economic growth should be the centerpiece of Michigan’s effort to woo the younger generation. n
— Associated Press
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