BY GHADEER ALARADI, Student Life Editor

Students attending the discussion about college affordability on April 7 in Kochoff C.
Students attending the discussion about college affordability on April 7 in Kochoff C.

Student Government invited United Way and The Center for Michigan to start a conversation on campus about college affordability. The event was held on Tuesday, April 7 in Kochoff C.

The Center for Michigan’s office is in Ann Arbor, but they work statewide to hear what issues are important to residents and send those messages to state leaders.

They will compile a report, which will be a combination of information from 150 schools. It will be ready in the summer, and it will be shared around the state with lawmakers and decision makers.

“One of the top concerns that was identified was college affordability. People are concerned with how much debts students are taking on and how it impacts your ability to thrive and start a career,” said Amber DeLind, the outreach director for the Center for Michigan.

The Center for Michigan has had conversations previously about K-12 education, tax reform, and this year they are focusing on the job market.

“We do know that leaders really are listening to these community conversations,” said DeLind. She said that these conversations have helped spark policy change.

The first question asked by DeLind was, “How do you feel about the current Michigan job market for yourself, your family, and Michigan residents?”

Attendees had clickers, where they clicked the most appropriate answer, and results would appear on the screen.

For themselves, most of the attendees felt there are some challenges, but there are still opportunities. Some felt that it is tough out there.

For family and friends, attendees felt there are good opportunities out there. About one third of the audience felt that it is tough.

For Michigan residents, many of the attendees felt that the opportunities are limited in the state.

The next question asked was, “What would it be like to have a good career and the type of life you want in the future in Michigan?”

More than half of the audience members were feeling positive and optimistic about their future in Michigan. Around 45 percent of attendees said there will be challenges, but there will be opportunities.

DeLind asked audience members why they felt optimistic and why some didn’t.

A member of the audience said, “I’m a supply chain major, so in the automotive industry there has been an increase in the job market.”

Another member of the audience said, “There has been an increase with private sector jobs, and it’s really helping prospects for the job market.”

Before talking about college affordability, DeLind pointed out some facts and statistics. She stated that 60.3 percent of Michigan high school graduates enroll in a two or four-year college. She also said that the average net cost of tuition is 21.6 percent of the median family income.

DeLind directed a question the audience, asking how students chose which campus and profession to pursue.

“I’m a political science major, I don’t know if it’s going to pay off yet. But this is what I was passionate about and I wouldn’t settle for anything else,” said Sarah Elhelou, President of Student Government.

She then asked, “Is the college degree worth the cost?” The majority of the students said that the college degree is worth it, and about 19 percent said it is not.

The next question was, “Who is responsible for improving college affordability?” Sixty-five percent said governors and state legislatures should be responsible.

DeLind then asked the audience members to read pages in the pamphlets that were on the table about different options to improve college affordability.

The first option was requiring more efficiency in university operations. The second one was to expand opportunities for high school students to earn college credits. The third option is to expand and restructure state financial aid to reward college completion rather than attendance. The fourth option is to create a “Pay it Forward” financial aid program. The fifth option was to create a “Pay to Stay” financial aid program. The sixth option was to offer free college in Michigan.

Around 75 percent of attendees said that option one is a good idea, and the rest did not think it would be successful. Eighty-seven percent of attendees said that option two was a good idea.

DeLind concluded the program by asking some demographic questions about work, school, race, gender, and age of the audience members.

“A lot of students are concerned about college value and affordability, so it’s important to have events like these so students know they have a voice and they can make a difference,” said Elhelou.