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Can the state make its college credits goal?

Michigan is looking for people to fill its college classrooms. The state’s goal is to increase the number of residents who have 60 college credits to 60% by 2030. To that end, the Michigan Reconnect effort aims to enhance Michigan’s workforce. But we’re not the only state looking to increase college attendance.

Washington State has quite possibly an even more ambitious goal. That state would like to see 70% of Washington high school students (overall and within each racial and ethnic group) complete a post-secondary credential by 2026. To do that, the state believes it will need to enroll nearly 90% of its high school graduates in some type of post-secondary program.

High school students don’t make the decision to go to college on a whim, so getting buy-in from 9 out of 10 high school students won’t be easy. Going to college takes a lot of planning and preparation. Cost is certainly a factor, given that fewer than two-thirds of families have an actionable plan to send their children to college.

The flip-side of that equation means that one-third of families have absolutely no savings to work with when Junior wants to go to college. According to the 2021 Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the median household income is less than $83,000. In Washington, less than 60% of households earn at least the median income, so the goal of getting 9 out of 10 high school graduates enrolled in post-secondary classes redefines ambitious.

The 70% figure didn’t come out of nowhere. It comes from the state’s employers, who say that 70% of their job openings in the immediate future will require at least some college credits.

College credits require financial planning

Michigan’s 60 by 30 program also faces some serious numerical challenges. Only about 20% of people approved to attend school under Michigan Reconnect actually go on to enroll. Still fewer graduate. Every graduation helps, but to date, the program has not yet made serious inroads toward the goal of having 60% of the state’s prime adult workforce earn 60 college credits.

I’m not criticizing the program, but it is also notable that the State’s credentialing goals bring it uncomfortably close to Generation Z, which isn’t convinced that you need any college credits to succeed.

If these programs to increase college attendance don’t pan out, they will leave employers hanging when it comes to having the qualified pool of workers they need to run their businesses. That’s why the state’s approach to getting traditional college-age students into colleges and universities had better include a plan to help new parents understand the long-term value of setting aside cash for college.

Photo Credit: arecknor, via Flickr