Phi Beta Cons

Nonsense in Michigan

Michigan voters displayed some common sense last year (well, 58 percent of them anyway) last year in approving Prop 2, but nonsense regarding the imagined benefits of higher education subsidies abound in the minds of the state’s politicians.
The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article (“Public Colleges Sink or Swim in the Great Lakes State” — subscription site) that discusses the popular notion that a state economy can be energized by increasing the percentage of citizens who have college degrees. Many politicians, including Governor Granholm want to “pour funds into Michigan public colleges,” and the VP of the state board of education says that “our future as a state economically will be helped by our citizens attaining a higher education.”
This is on a par with the belief that raising the minimum wage leads to prosperity.
People and businesses are not leaving (or staying away from) Michigan because of a lack of workers with college diplomas. Rather, other states have much better climates, both weather and business wise. Japanese auto makers aren’t building plants in states like Kentucky and Alabama because they’re brimming with college grads.
Furthermore, it doesn’t occur to the politicians that college students are not all alike. The really able ones who are most apt to benefit from college coursework are undoubtedly going to attend anyway. Efforts to lure more students in will only attract some marginal ones, and slapping college credentials on more of them isn’t going to give the state any economic boost.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.