Michigan's College Access Blog

Inspiring a Tradition - 2015 CSD with Mrs. Obama in Detroit

This blog post was authored by Maria C. Montoya with Excellent Schools Detroit and was originally published on Medium.com as part of Better Make Room's College Signing Day blog series. Portions of the blog are posted here with permission.
All too often the individuals who are lifted up to our youth as role models are music icons and/or athletes. Yes, music icons and athletes are valuable roles models, but our students also need to be exposed to more everyday heroes. Everyday heroes often attribute post-secondary education as a key pathway to their success and are often not featured or honored for their choices. 

Choosing to take this path is something that deserves recognition, and a great deal of support from our communities. That is why it was a very easy decision for us to decide to host the first-ever citywide Detroit College Signing Day in May 2015... Continue Reading 


College Access Advocacy Day Reflections

Every day, thousands of individuals work to assist students and families with the college going process. From searching for scholarships and grants to determining the best college to attend, our state is full of college access champions who are committed to increasing Michigan’s degree attainment rate one student at a time. While we know these efforts have a huge impact, we also know that many of the barriers facing nontraditional college students can only be addressed through policy. 

The Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) strives to serve as Michigan's authority on college access and success issues through policy and advocacy. We work diligently to advocate for policy reforms that expand postsecondary opportunities for low-income students, first-generation college going students, and students of color.

Last week, over sixty college access champions visited the state capitol for MCAN’s first College Access Advocacy Day.  The event provided an opportunity for Local College Access Networks, promise zones, and other college access and success programs to meet with state legislators and discuss Michigan’s educational challenges and opportunities.   Participants rallied around several priorities, including:

  • Adoption of a postsecondary education attainment goal (60% degree attainment by 2025)
  • Adequate funding for Michigan’s colleges and universities as they support Michigan students toward degree completion
  • Increased financial assistance to Michigan students as they pursue postsecondary education
  • Support for House Bill 4181, which specifies that 50 of the 150 required professional development hours for school counselors must be dedicated to college and career counseling

We hope that each participant in our inaugural College Access Advocacy Day felt empowered by the experience and will use the training and resources to continue their advocacy efforts in the weeks and months ahead.

If you would like more information on MCAN’s Advocacy Strategy, visit www.micollegeaccess.org/advocacy or contact MCAN staff members Brandy Johnson or Sarah Anthony. 

Sarah Anthony

Author: Sarah Anthony, Deputy Director for Partnerships and Advocacy
Posted: April 25, 2017

ALICE Report Synopsis

The new Michigan Association of United Ways ALICE report (for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed), makes clear that Michigan is facing severe structural economic challenges. In the seventh year of a national economic expansion––and an even stronger rebound from near bankruptcy of the domestic auto industry––too many Michigan households are struggling.

Forty percent of Michigan households do not have sufficient income to pay for the necessities: primarily housing, childcare, food, health care, taxes and transportation. More than 1.5 million Michigan households are without adequate income to pay for basic necessities. As the report makes clear this is an all Michigan problem: in every county, among all races and all ages. 


  • Not enough of us work: Michigan is 40th in the proportion of adults who work. 400,000 fewer Michiganders working today than in 2000.
  • Not enough of us work in good-paying jobs: 16 percent below the national average in wages and benefits per capita. In 2000 Michigan was one percent below.
  • Too low education attainment. 32nd in the proportion of adults with a four-year degree or more. And even lower in all the rankings of K-12 student outcomes

This pattern is true irrespective of race. Racial discrimination is an ongoing reality in employment, education, housing and the criminal justice system; but class is now the main dividing line in the American economy and increasingly class is defined by college attainment.

The preeminent challenge of our times is figuring out how to reverse what is being called the Great Decoupling. Where even when the economy is growing––as it has been in Michigan since the end of the Great Recession––only those at the top are benefiting from that growth. The policy priority needs to be reestablishing an economy where as the economy grows all Michigan households enjoy rising incomes.

It should now be clear that having a growing economy, or a low unemployment rate, or being business friendly––all of which have been the goals of state policymakers now and in the past––does not lead to an economy that benefits all. Michigan has been making progress on all three since the end of the  Great Recession. Its far past time that we make explicit that the goal of state economic policy is a rising household income for all Michiganders.

The ALICE report makes clear that the economy is generating too many jobs that pay too little to pay the bills, save for retirement and the kids education and pass on a better opportunity to the next generation. That requires state policies to both remove the multiple barriers many face to find gainful employment and to augment wages and benefits through some combination of employer mandates and/or an expanded safety net. 

But the key to having an economy with rising household incomes for all is good-paying jobs and careers. Where careers are for forty years, not a first job. The prime focus of economic policy must be helping people have a career of good-paying work.

By far the most reliable path to substantially reducing the number of Michigan ALICE households is increased education attainment. The data are clear: the higher one’s education attainment the more one works and earns. The power of education attainment in raising one’s income has been growing for decades. The odds are great that the income gap by education attainment will continue to widen. The most reliable path to a good-paying career is with a bachelor’s degree or more, in both STEM and non-STEM fields.

Clearly not all good-paying jobs require a four-year degree. There are many good-paying jobs that can be obtained with an associate’s degree or occupational credential. But the preponderance of good-paying jobs are going to those with four-year degrees or more. 

In addition, the labor market is now characterized by accelerated creative destruction. Those who have the agility and ability to constantly switch occupations will do best over a forty year career. The notion of a career ladder––predictable and linear steps upward––in a world that is constantly changing is obsolete.

Rather people will need to be like rock climbers––constantly adjusting to new opportunities and challenges, and then resourceful to take advantage of those opportunities. Add to that, in an economy where more and more work is contingent, increasingly the ability to be your own employer. Finding good-paying work and good benefits and managing your own finances. These are the kind of skills that are developed best by earning a four-year degree, particularly in the liberal arts. 

If Michigan is going to be a place with a broad middle class, if employers are going to have the supply of skilled workers they need and if Michigan is going to be a place once again where kids regularly do better than their parents, it will happen because the state made a commitment to provide an education system for all from birth through higher education that builds rigorous broad skills that are the foundation of successful forty-year careers.

Author: Lou Glazer, President and Co-founder of Michigan Future, Inc.
Posted: April 11, 2017


Michigan Future, Inc. is a non-partisan, non-profit organization. Michigan Future’s mission is to be a source of new ideas on how Michigan can succeed as a world class community in a knowledge-driven economy. Its work is funded by Michigan foundations.

Building Bridges: The Creation of the MCAN Higher Education Advisory Board

Recently, we formally established the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) Higher Education Advisory Board. The board, comprised of higher educational institutions across the state, will work collaboratively to increase college access and completion rates throughout the state of Michigan. By partnering directly with colleges and universities, we hope to strengthen our relationship with higher education institutions and, in doing so, get closer to reaching our Big Goal – 60 percent degree attainment by 2025.

MCAN works closely with local communities in order to build a college-going culture and lower barriers for students as they prepare for life after high school. That’s why we’re so thrilled to be fostering and formalizing a relationship with higher education institutions across Michigan. So far, there are 57 colleges and universities represented within the MCAN Higher Education Advisory Board — 85 percent of all public and private college and universities in the state! They are:

Adrian College Kalamazoo College Northwood University
Alma College Kalamazoo Valley Community College  Oakland Community College
Andrews University  Kellogg Community College Oakland University
Aquinas College Lake Michigan College Olivet College
Baker College Lake Superior State University Saginaw Valley State University
Bay College Lansing Community College Schoolcraft College
Calvin College Macomb Community College Siena Heights University
Central Michigan University  Madonna University Southwestern Michigan College
Cleary University Marygrove College Spring Arbor University
College for Creative Studies  Michigan State University St. Clair County Community College
Concordia University Ann Arbor  Michigan Technical University University of Detroit Mercy
Cornerstone University Mid-Michigan Community College University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Delta College Monroe County Community College University of Michigan-Dearborn
Eastern Michigan University Montcalm Community College University of Michigan-Flint
Ferris State University Mott Community College Walsh College
Glen Oaks Community College Muskegon Community College Wayne County Community College
Grand Rapids Community College  North Central Michigan College Wayne State University
Grand Valley State University Northern Michigan University West Shore Community College
Jackson College Northwestern Michigan College Western Michigan University

By having a formal relationship – and a single point of contact from each college and university – the MCAN Higher Education Advisory Board will help inform and shape college access programming by providing feedback on our strategies from a higher education perspective. We are confident that the group will strengthen our local college access networks, statewide initiatives and the AdviseMI program.

MCAN is dedicated to making college accessible for all Michigan residents. As the leader in the state’s college access movement, MCAN’s mission is to increase Michigan’s college readiness, participation and completion rates, particularly among low-income students, first-generation college going students, and students of color. We’re thrilled to be collaborating more closely with colleges and universities across the state and look forward to working collectively toward Goal 2025.

To learn more about the MCAN Higher Education Advisory Board, visit www.micollegeaccess.org/goal-2025/higher-education-advisory-board.

Author: Brandy Johnson, Executive Director, Michigan College Access Network
Posted: April 7, 2017

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