OUR VIEW: Efficient education is key in Michigan

By Daily News • Last Updated 11:38 pm on Friday, February 10, 2012

As Americans adjust to a challenging world economy, two undeniably major players have emerged to command the attention of the general public: the purveyors of health services and education.

The ever-expanding facilities of both industries make it apparent that we want to have healthy, learning communities. The global challenge has made us all realize that eventually, good health and continuing education is what will enable us to achieve lifestyles equal to or better than in the past.

Here in Michigan we have learned the hard way that access to advanced education and attendant well-learned skills are essential steps to a bright future. At the same time, it becomes imperative that our learning institutions at every level collaborate and consolidate in order to provide an affordable educational experience for young people. The accessibility of higher education, both economically and geographically, is key, because living outside Michigan’s urban areas are a lot of students that just aren’t able to pick up and go.

Michigan community colleges would like to offer four-year degrees on a restricted and selected basis. The degrees would include cement technology, marine technology, culinary arts, energy production technology and nursing. The issue has apparently elicited well-financed lobbying opposition from the state’s four-year schools, and legislators are running for cover by publicly suspecting such heresy may be unconstitutional.

It is imperative these days that our children have access to the highest level education they can achieve. For many aspiring students, the four-year school cost of food, lodging, medical fees and travel are prohibitive. Not all students can easily leave their home environment.

In higher education, the ultimate stockholders and tuition payers are the taxpayers and the students. There should not be a turf-protecting political struggle for their dollars between community colleges, four-year colleges and a variety of private institutions. While their interests should be respected; a well-educated society is the ultimate goal.

K-12 systems should seek to provide a custom-fitted pace for individual students by advocating dual enrollments with community colleges when the student’s progress warrants, achievement can be accelerated, and duplicate programs can be avoided.

Likewise, community colleges should be able to grant specifically negotiated four-year degree programs in carefully selected fields of study. What’s wrong with creating a seamless pathway statewide to the most efficient and economical education for our children?

The institutions that spend our tax dollars and the legislators we elect to oversee the process owe it to our future, the emerging generations, to manage these steps in the best interests of all Michigan citizens.

Editorial opinions are the consensus of The Daily News editorial board.

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