How Cost Effective Are Michigan’s Universities?

New data released by The Chronicle of Higher Education help compare colleges in terms of effectiveness and efficiency by looking at both completion rates and spending per degree earned.

On average, about 61 percent of first-time students earn a degree or certification from a four-year public university within six years of enrolling, and these universities spend about $75,900 for each degree they issue.

Michigan’s universities spend about $7,000 more per completion than the national average, suggesting a lower rate of efficiency. Florida public universities lead the nation, spending the least per completion on average, and about $35,000 less than Michigan public universities on average.

These spending data only include expenditures related to direct instruction, academic and student support and operations and maintenance. They do not include spending related to research.

Within Michigan, Central Michigan University spends the least per completion at about $43,400 for each college completer. Ferris State, Grand Valley State and Oakland University were not far behind — all spending less than $55,000 per completion.

The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor spends an astonishing $129,206 per completion, by far the highest in the state and 16th highest in the country. U-M, however, has the best six-year completion rate in the state at nearly 90 percent. In fact, it’s the fifth best in the country among four-year public universities.

Wayne State University stands out in the Michigan data for a couple of reasons. It spends the second most per degree earned — $97,665 — but does not have a high completion rate to show for it like U-M does. WSU’s six-year completion rate as an abysmal 31 percent and its four-year completion rate is under 10 percent.

Based on completion rates and spending per completion, Grand Valley State appears to provide the best overall value from the perspective of taxpayers interested in churning out more college degrees. About 61 percent of students graduate from GVSU within six years and it spends roughly $53,947 for each one of these completers.

As Michigan continues to evaluate its higher education system, metrics like these should prove useful, since they enable taxpayers to estimate the value they’re getting from subsidizing these public universities.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.