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Business groups lobby lawmakers, governor to create state-funded college scholarships

Crain’s Detroit Business
David Eggert
June 08, 2022

LANSING — Several major statewide and local business groups are supporting a legislative proposal to award state-funded college scholarships to 2022 high school graduates, saying it would help deal with workforce and talent shortages.

The Michigan Achievement Scholarship program would give students attending in-state four-year universities and colleges up to $6,000 a year, while those at in-state community colleges or private occupational schools could qualify for up to $3,000 annually. More than three-quarters of this year’s graduating class would be eligible.

The Republican-controlled Senate backed the $361 million initiative in its budget plan, with a goal of continuing the program into future years. Talks continue among leaders in the Senate, GOP-led House, and Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration over tax cuts and spending priorities amid a multibillion-dollar budget surplus.

In a letter to lawmakers and the governor last week, leading business organizations said the scholarship funding would make postsecondary education more affordable and boost the number of people in the talent pipeline. The state’s $1.8 billion higher education budget is lower than it was 20 years ago, even without adjusting for inflation.

“We want Michigan to continue to aim to be a Top 10 state for developing talent and attracting and retaining talent. In addition, we want Michigan to be a place for businesses to be proud to make their home. We believe the Michigan Achievement Scholarship funding in the FY 2023 budget will help accomplish this,” they wrote.

Groups signing the letter include the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Business Leaders for Michigan, Michigan Manufacturers Association, Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan, National Federation of Independent Business, Home Builders Association of Michigan, Michigan Works! Association and many local chambers of commerce.

The scholarships would cover tuition or mandatory fees not already offset by need-based federal Pell Grants or Michigan’s tuition program for Medicaid recipients. The state currently offers tuition-free community college assistance for adults ages 25 and older and frontline pandemic workers.

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