Businesses discuss higher education funding at leadership summit

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By Josh Qian, Daily Staff Reporter
Published May 7, 2012

LANSING - On Monday University President Mary Sue Coleman facilitated a panel at the “Growing a Higher Education Marketplace” leadership summit that focused on how higher education institutes can drive innovation, promoting economic recovery and growth in Michigan.

The summit was hosted by Business Leaders for Michigan, a non-profit leadership organization committed to promoting economic growth and job creation in Michigan. It consisted of discussions about how to leverage the state’s higher education system, aiming to strengthen the Michigan economy. It attracted approximately 350 business, community, civic and academic leaders from across the state and nation.

Coleman, in an interview with The Michigan Daily, said the University’s continued partnership with businesses is beneficial to the state’s economy and University students.

“We create a lot of ideas that are picked up by Michigan businesses,” Coleman said. “We have started some new companies, which have been very valuable for both the students and the faculty and it has given our students tremendous opportunities to work on the kind of projects that they will use when they go out for their careers.”

Coleman said she is pleased that BLM presented the specific data so we can compare Michigan’s investment in higher education to other states.

“We used to be equivalent to North Carolina in spending on higher education,” Coleman said. “In the last decade, we’ve slipped very badly and we need to reflect on the long-term implications. I would hope the state would try to get back to where it used to be 10 years ago because it would be good for the people of Michigan.”

Coleman added that she has been involved with BLM for a number of years, and she truly believes in the organization’s mission.

“I want to make the state better, and I believe this is one of the ways to do it,” she said.

BLM developed the Michigan Turnaround Plan in 2009 to promote job growth. One of the steps of the plan includes strategically investing for future growth by increasing the number of Michigan laborers with higher education degrees.

BLM recognizes the state’s higher education system as one of its greatest asset for growth and is committed to supporting the research and development funds dedicated to industry and university partnerships.

Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of BLM, gave the opening speech at the summit, emphasizing the potential the higher education system has to accelerate growth and rebuild the Michigan economy.

“We need to invest in the higher education marketplace by attracting more university-based research and development and growing the enrollment of in- and out-of-state students,” Rothwell said in his speech.

The summit also featured two additional panels that allotted discussion of how higher education can be used in producing talent and growing the economy.

University alum J. Patrick Doyle, president and CEO of Domino’s Pizza, said in his speech that Michigan cuts in spending for higher education have been more drastic than in most other states and have forced universities to adapt.

“Between 2005 and 2010, Michigan experienced the third largest decline in state support for higher education,” Doyle said. “The net impact is undeniable — it has shifted the cost for college from the state to the people.”

Andra Rush, CEO of Dakkota Integrated Systems, said she believes education is critical for any business, and she wants to know more about how education can be supported legislatively and financially through the efforts of business leaders.

“A lot of the innovations and applications such as the iPhone comes from research that begins typically with a university,” Rush said. “Education is very important, and the investment multiplies substantially if you connect the businesses with the academics.”