Twenty representatives of Michigan cities gathered in Lansing recently for a summit on increasing community and economic development by raising educational attainment – the first of a series of statewide summits taking place throughout 2014.
The Municipal Leaders’ Summit on Postsecondary Success occurred thanks to a four-way partnership among the Michigan Municipal League (MML), the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) and the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families (YEF Institute), with generous support from the Kresge Foundation of Troy, Michigan. MML provided the venue, in the form of a pre-conference session prior to the opening of its annual Capital Conference. David Lossing, Mayor of Linden, Mich., former MML president and MCAN board member, set the tone for the day by describing the imperative for Michigan to shift from its longtime manufacturing-based economy to one that is knowledge-based. Lossing emphasized the important roles municipal leaders can play in building public will for this shift.
The intensive session fit a combination of expert speakers and resource persons, attention to local data and exposure to key strategies into one morning. The audience of mayors, councilmembers and city managers received an efficient yet comprehensive briefing on the ways improved postsecondary success contributes to local economic development, such as by increasing the overall skills and qualifications of the local talent pool . In the Michigan context, the summit helpfully connected city leaders more closely with CEO-level alliances already underway in many communities – Local College Access Networks (LCANs) – and inspired some leaders to form new LCANs.
Lou Glazer of the Michigan Future, Inc., a non-partisan think tank, supplied labor market research pointing to the benefits to communities of higher education attainment. These benefits appear most markedly in lower unemployment rates and higher earnings. Glazer underscored the increasing gap in earnings between workers with four-year degrees, and those with two-year degrees or high school diplomas, as well as figures showing that 62 percent of Michigan jobs will require postsecondary education by the year 2018. To meet that demand, the state, along with many others, must increase postsecondary attainment rates upward rapidly from the current baseline of 37 percent of working-age adults with an associate degree or higher.
Key resource persons from around Michigan offered roundtable sessions on strategies that municipal leaders can help support or scale up. These included expanded college advising through the National College Advising Corps and community-college based resource centers; the statewide Community College Success Center focused on helping adult learners complete credentials; place-based scholarships offered through initiatives such as the Kalamazoo Promise and FAFSA completion drives.
Bracketing the event, two foundation supporters of NLC’s postsecondary success initiative – Caroline Altman Smith of the Kresge Foundation and Tina Gridiron of the Lumina Foundation — provided a number of rallying points for city officials. Both struck chords with participants when they illustrated key challenges – students entering college but not completing, significant attainment gaps affecting many populations – and promising local developments such as Louisville’s 55,000 Degrees and San Antonio’s Café College Resource Center.
For more information about the YEF Institute’s initiative to support municipal leaders in building public will for improving postsecondary success rates, see NLC’s page on Municipal Leadership for Postsecondary Success or contact Andrew Moore.