Michigan business groups lobby for state-funded college scholarships

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LANSING — Several major statewide and local business groups are backing a legislative proposal to award state-funded college scholarships to 2022 high school graduates, saying it would help cope labor and talent shortages.

Michigan’s scholarship program would give students attending four-year universities and colleges in the state up to $6,000 a year, while those at community colleges or private vocational schools in the state could qualify. at up to $3,000 per year. More than three quarters of this year’s promotion would be eligible.

The Republican-controlled Senate backed the $361 million initiative in its budget plan, with the goal of continuing the program for years to come. Talks continue between leaders of the Senate, GOP-led House and Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration on tax cuts and spending priorities amid a multibillion-dollar budget surplus .

In a letter to lawmakers and the governor last week, major professional organizations said scholarship funding would make post-secondary education more affordable and increase the number of people in the talent pool. The state budget for higher education of $1.8 billion is lower than it was 20 years ago, even without accounting for inflation.

“We want Michigan to continue to aim to be one of the top 10 states for developing talent and attracting and retaining talent. Additionally, we want Michigan to be a place where businesses are proud to locate. We believe Michigan Scholarship funding in the fiscal year 2023 budget will help achieve this,” they wrote.

Groups signing the letter include the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Business Leaders, Michigan Manufacturers Association, Michigan Associate Builders and Contractors, National Federation of Independent Business, Builders Association Michigan Homes, Michigan Works! Association and many local chambers of commerce.

The scholarships would cover tuition or mandatory fees that are not already offset by federal need-based Pell grants or Michigan’s tuition program for Medicaid recipients. The state is currently offering free community college assistance for adults 25 and older and pandemic frontline workers.

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