Any economic growth strategy must include educational attainment. Research shows that urban areas that thrive do so because of educational attainment. That can be no different for Monroe County. Also, fund inflows are positive, while outflows are negative. My point is simply this: Monroe County is a microcosm of the state and nation, so the higher the educational attainment and the more inflows of funds we have, and less outflows, the more likely it is that we will thrive as a county. I cannot imagine that there is a single individual in this county who does not want this county to prosper. As the old saying goes, “a rising tide lifts all boats.”
Just a couple of days ago, I attended a Business Leaders for Michigan Forum in Ann Arbor. The goal of this organization is to make Michigan a “Top Ten” state. The data shows that if Michigan were a “Top Ten” state today, 120,000 more Michigan people would be working, income would be $11,000 more per person, and GDP would be $13,000 more per person. Currently, we are ranked 29th, 33rd, and 34th, respectively in the areas above. Michigan is also ranked 31st for an educated workforce and has the 10th oldest population in the nation.
By bringing students, employers, and additional spending to local economies, colleges and universities drive economic growth. Unfortunately, here are some telling and dismal statistics on where Michigan ranks in higher education:
- 41st for the average number of career-oriented and/or technical education classes in which public school students are enrolled
- 31st for share of residents aged 25 to 64 with an associate degree or higher
- 46th for percent of entering first-year undergraduates from out of state
- 35th for percent of students tested who met or exceeded the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in English, reading, mathematics and science
- 9th highest average debt per college graduate
- Only 22 percent of students tested were career and college ready
Those numbers are indeed depressing. Fortunately for those of us in Monroe County, we outperform the state in the associate degree and college debt areas. For those who remain in Monroe County for an education, the debt is nowhere near the state average – it is much lower.
We as county need to keep as many young minds here in the county and attract as many to come into our county to be educated at the post-secondary level. Every time we send a young person out-of-county for higher education, we send money out of our county (outflow); every time we bring an individual from out-of-county to be educated here, we have an inflow of funds into our county. All that adds up as it contributes to that multiplier effect. As simplistic as it may seem, this is all part of the economic development/growth equation. The more money we spend in Monroe County, the more jobs are created, the more likely it is for businesses and, therefore, individuals to thrive, contribute to the tax base and raise this county to the next level.
With all that said, “buying Monroe” makes sense to me. Why not buy our education right here in Monroe County at lower cost and hence lower long-term debt? Unfortunately, many choose to buy from out-of-county at higher cost leading to higher debt. As one who wants the best for my county, I would rather spend my hard-earned income in my community. In order for Michigan to become a “Top Ten” state, we in Monroe cannot be left behind. Monroe County must aspire to become a “Top Ten” county. The best way to get there is by supporting higher education in our own county by “buying Monroe”. If not, we will keep falling farther and farther behind.