In an effort to gain input for his plan to improve the
state’s graduate rate, Lt. Governor John Cherry met with
University President Mary Sue Coleman last Tuesday.

The Cherry Commission on Higher Education and Economic Growth, a
project that Gov. Granholm assigned to Cherry, will focus on two
tasks. First, the commission plans to double the number of college
graduates in Michigan over the next 10 years. Second, it seeks to
ensure those graduates are receiving the skills they need to enter
the 21st century workforce.

The commission will reevaluate the Michigan Educational
Assessment Program testing, college preparation curriculum and
state participation in student retention in the upcoming summer
months to achieve its goals.

Cherry said the ultimate aim of the commission is a change in
priorities for the state.

“At the foundation is how the state values
education,” he said. “I think we have to build the
priority that we all have in terms of higher education in
Michigan.”

Cherry met with Coleman as a part of a series of meetings with
higher education leaders in order to gain input on the needs of
secondary education in Michigan. With the help of these leaders and
collected data, the commission hopes to raise the number of college
graduates in the state above the current 22 percent, a number below
the national 26 percent of adults who graduated from a college or
university.

Coleman said there are a number of ways in which the University
can help to further the commission’s goals, including
increasing enrollment at Flint and Dearborn campuses by up to 2,000
students per campus — a measure that would not require any
changes to the facilities.

“We have the infrastructure, and that makes it economical
to put students in place,” Coleman said.

She added that, though the Ann Arbor campus has long reached
maximum capacity, the University will look into alternate ways in
which it might aid the Cherry Commission in its goals. Coleman also
mentioned an increased awareness of higher education among high
school students as a way to improve graduation rates in
Michigan’s adults.

The commission will also work with the National Center for
Education Statistics to gather data on Michigan’s graduates.
A study released by the center in March reported that the state
lagged behind not only in the number of adults who graduate from
college, but also in the general percentage of adults in the
population with a college degree.

To increase the number of Michiganders who graduate from
college, Cherry has considered requiring two years of schooling
after high school graduation before entering college. Scholarships
have also been considered as incentives to encourage students to
complete a degree.

LSA junior Jason Phelps graduated from a public high school in
Michigan and said he is eager to see what changes result from the
Cherry Commission.

“I’m glad someone’s finally taking some
initiative and looking over the kind of education we are getting
(in the state of Michigan),” Phelps said.

“The longer I am at the University, the more I realize how
unprepared I was to be here,” he added.

But concern has been raised about the cost of these changes to
Michigan’s public school program. Cherry said he believes
once the proper framework is established to increase graduate
numbers, the benefit of having a larger pool of educated employees
in Michigan will help offset initial costs.

Cherry will name his commission members by June 1, and the group
will report its recommendations to Granholm by January 2005. Cherry
said the commission would continue to collect data and input until
that date.

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