Some Michigan politicians are touting a proposal they call “Michigan2020,” which would make available to all Michigan high school graduates four years of fully subsidized college education.

The estimated $1.8 billion needed to pay for the subsidies would apparently come from ending corporate welfare, a reform the Mackinac Center fully endorses. Unfortunately, just pouring additional taxpayer dollars into state universities is more likely to benefit their administrators and other employees than students, and here’s why:

According to federal statistics presented by the Chronicle of Higher Education, only 33 percent of students enrolled in Michigan’s public universities graduate in four years. Only 61 percent graduate in six years.

The proposal would also pay for classes at community colleges, but their graduation rates are even lower. Only about 15 percent of students who enroll in these two-year colleges get a four-year degree within six years or a two-year degree within three years.

Stay Engaged

Receive our weekly emails!

In the world of finance, these would be considered extremely poor investments.

Low college graduation rates aren’t unique to Michigan. In fact, this state’s abysmal six-year graduation rate is higher than the national average.

A wide range of factors most likely contribute to the low completion rates, but inability to pay doesn’t appear to be one of them. Nationally, completion rates have stayed roughly the same or slightly decreased while federal aid for college grew from $10 billion in 2000 to $30 billion in 2008.

Increasing the number of graduates — preferably with degrees that actually have value in the career marketplace — will require much more than just pumping more taxpayer subsidies into the current system.

Indeed, until the cause of low college completion rates is better understood — and the institutions get serious about containing absurd cost increases — it might make more sense to scale back current taxpayer subsidies.

Stay Engaged

Simply enter your email below to receive our weekly email:


The State of Michigan claims the tens of millions of dollars it spends each year advertising the tourism industry brings in needed tax dollars, but the industry fails to show the data. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy devised a study and found that for every dollar spent, only two cents comes back to the state, and only to a select segment of the tourism industry.

Related Sites