Michigan Radio’s Issues & Ale: College Affordability & Access


College affordability is a big issue, from the living rooms of anxious students and parents, to the presidential campaign trail . Over the past ten years, tuition costs have increased more than five times faster than the Consumer Price Index and the average class of 2015 graduate with student-loan debt will have to pay back more than $35,000. Michigan’s students leave college with some of the highest debt levels in the nation .

A recording of the October 27, 2015 event is available here.

Average debt for graduates in Michigan: Just over $35,000


  • Michigan is below national average in # of adults that have a college degree.  Need 300,000 more people to graduate with a college degree just to get up to the national average. (Doing so would add $7 billion to Michigan’s economy BTW.)
  • [Adjusted for inflation] Cost has doubled in 1 generation.
  • [Adjusted for inflation] Since 1975, cost at a public university is up 138%; at private 157%; but wages have only gone up 1.6% (flat lined basically)
  • Can’t work your way through college like your parents or grandparents might have done
  • Rising tuition
  • Rising textbook costs
  • Room and board
  • Need to have a talk about financial literacy; help a student know more about financial aid and what will need to be paid back and when
  • Scholarships, grants, funding
  • Transfer rates are sizable from community colleges
  • Community colleges are often a very good choice for students who are raising children and/or for students who are returning to college later on; can make a very good living on some of the jobs that you can get coming out of a community college
  • Students often don’t know how to advocate for themselves; don’t know how to navigate a campus and the services/resources therein; also don’t take advantage of office hours
  • Michigan State is pushing the idea of “neighborhoods” — like communities in the dorms; easier and less fearful to access services/tutoring/assistance
  • Other choices? Unions/trades such as plumbers; joining the military
  • Ingredients of costs; decreased spending at state level has had a significant impact on rising costs for students
  • …and more.