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Granholm, Cherry Announce Commission on Higher Education and Economic Growth

March 15, 2004

LANSING – Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today announced that she is creating a commission to focus on the future of higher education and its role in Michigan’s 21st century economy.  The commission will focus on doubling the number of college graduates and ensuring that they have the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century workplace.
The Governor has asked Lieutenant Governor John D. Cherry to head the commission, which will begin its work in June.  The commission will be created by an executive order the Governor will sign by the end of March.
“Our higher education system is the jet fuel that propels our economy,” Granholm said.  “If we want a high-performance economy, we must work now to improve the strength, depth, and adaptability of our colleges and universities.  The mission of this commission could not be more critical to our state.”
The Cherry Commission on Higher Education and Economic Growth will have two main charges:

•  doubling the number of Michigan college graduates over the next 10 years, making Michigan the national leader in producing college graduates; and

•  ensuring that Michigan’s system of higher education furnishes our citizens with the general and specific skills they need to embrace the jobs of the 21st century.

“To ensure the economic strength and security of our state, we must address the skills gap that exists in Michigan,” Cherry said.  “Our higher education system must keep pace with the new economy and the challenges our state faces.  We must expand and sustain a highly educated workforce to spread economic opportunity and prosperity to more Michigan citizens.”                       

The Governor said the state’s skills gap threatens Michigan’s position as an economic powerhouse state.  Today, fewer than 22 percent of Michigan adults have attained bachelor’s or advanced degrees – 2 percent below the national average and more than 10 percent below the states that are leading the nation in terms of both educational attainment and economic growth.  Further, only 34 percent of Michigan citizens between the ages of 25 and 34 have obtained post-secondary degrees.  Michigan is in the bottom tier of states in terms of adults with post-secondary degrees.
“Michigan exports too many of our highly educated younger workers,” Granholm said.  “To compete in the new, knowledge-driven economy, we must determine how we can maintain our educated workforce – the future of this state is in their hands.”

“The demand for college educated labor over the next 10 years necessitates that we do everything we can now to strengthen our higher education system and maximize its connection to economic growth,” Cherry said.  “Michigan is projected to have shortages in many skilled and technical labor fields, which will make it difficult to create and retain good-paying jobs in advanced manufacturing, engineering, and high-tech sectors.”

The Cherry Commission will be composed of key state leaders representing business, K-12 education, labor, parents, students, and citizens.  Lt. Governor Cherry will announce members of the commission by June 1.  The commission will report its findings by January 1, 2005.