The state still has its goal of doubling the number of college graduates. But that will have to come despite less funding for education, Governor Jennifer Granholm told the Governor's Education Summit in Lansing on Tuesday.
Ms. Granholm said the state has programs designed to get both youth and adults through college or trade school programs. And she unveiled a new website to give students and their parents access to more information about college options and financing.
"The bottom line is we've got to get all these kids to go beyond high school," she said. "The question is how do we shake these kids and make them understand that the world has changed."
But she warned that the state funding to support that education at all levels will at least not be what educators would like. "I hope you're not discouraged by the challenges the budget will present," she said. "We are going to have to cut the important to fund the essential."
Ms. Granholm said the effort to increase the number of college graduates would continue to be a focus for the administration, but was not on the list of things that would not be touched as part of budget balancing efforts. What was on that protected list, she said, was the social safety net and efforts to diversify the economy.
"In every way we are trying to fund the means to double the number of college graduates," she said.
Where there still will be money in the process, she said, was the tuition support through the various state scholarships, the new Michigan Promise Zones and, for adults, the No Worker Left Behind program.
"There should be no excuses left for kids who might not otherwise be able to afford it," she said.
The new Michigan College Access Network website is designed to further assist in that effort to get people into higher education by providing a single portal for comparing various programs and for finding financial aid, Ms. Granholm said.
"We wanted to make sure it accessible and communities can use it to get kids to go to college," she said.
The network also released a report Tuesday showing, based on surveys and interviews, that Michigan has substantial racial gaps in both high school and college graduation and that the state is below the national average for college graduation for all racial groups.
The report also found that students were not prepared academically or financially for college and that the state had to create more links between high schools and higher education.
"There is significant opportunity to create an early and sustainable impact for Michigan youth by providing them with the promise of financial access to college, and the knowledge and tools to become 'college ready'," the report said.
Among the recommendations in the report is having college readiness programs reach students before high school. "Expanding the capacity of programs to reach these students at this critical time would greatly improve their likelihood of being prepared for and aspiring to college," the report said.
It also called for statewide efforts to create college access programs, particularly in areas not currently served by some kind of community scholarship fund.
But even with the college efforts, Ms. Granholm acknowledged a substantial gap remains. While No Worker Left Behind has provided training for 61,000 residents, the state has lost some 700,000 jobs since 2000.
And she expected it would be some time before the state's job market would recover. "The last thing employers do is make a commitment to hire because they want to make sure it's going to last," she said.
In the end, though, the economy will recover and people will go back to work, she said. "We are redefining Michigan and we're going to be all right," she said.