Give a college education

May 17, 2010
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Education equals opportunity. It gives hope to tomorrow’s generation and is the surest path to a brighter future for Michigan students and their families.

Unfortunately, there are too many people who are deterred from choosing higher education for themselves or their children because they don’t know how they will cover the rising cost of college. This is a loss our society and our economy can ill afford.

That’s why state leaders worked together more than two decades ago to create a simpler way for families to save for college. In 1988, the Michigan Education Trust became the nation’s first prepaid tuition program. MET allows families to lock in current tuition rates by making up-front payments in exchange for tuition credits to be used when their child enters college, community college or university.

In 2008, MET took another step toward the goal of putting a college education within the reach of Michigan children. The MET Charitable Tuition Program was established to allow businesses and organizations throughout our state to purchase from one to four years of college education for a deserving individual or child in the community at a special discounted rate.

MET credits can be used at any Michigan public university or college, including 28 community colleges. Various payment plan options are available and the total cost of the MET contract qualifies for a Michigan income tax deduction.

Charitable giving and education are already priorities for many Michigan businesses and organizations. MET provides a unique way for groups to stretch their scholarship dollars further since it allows them to pre-purchase tomorrow’s tuition at today’s rates.

The Carrollton School District, near Saginaw, is one organization using MET charitable contracts to give the priceless gift of a college education. Under the direction of Superintendent Dr. Craig Douglas, the district is purchasing approximately 40 contracts on a monthly payment plan. The contracts cover one year at a community college. Families apply for the scholarships when children are in pre-school or kindergarten. The tuition will be awarded years later after children and their parents meet various merit-based criteria.

In this challenging economic climate there is more competition than ever for charitable dollars. Yet it is even more important for us to make good investments that will have a long-lasting impact.

Giving the gift of a college education is one of the best ways we can make a difference in our communities and in the state as a whole. The future of Michigan, its communities and its businesses is held in the hands and minds of our young people. If we educate tomorrow’s generation, nurture their talents and creativity, they can take us to the pinnacle of prosperity through innovation and productivity.

College graduates earn more over their lifetimes, are more likely to find employment with health and retirement benefits, and have an easier time finding and holding jobs. Just this past March, the unemployment rate for college graduates was 4.7 percent, whereas the unemployment rate for those with only a high school education was 11.9 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are non-monetary benefits, as well. College graduates are far less likely to smoke and more likely to eat well and engage in physical activity. They contribute more to their communities and raise children who are better academically prepared.

All told, higher education has a lasting positive impact on our entire society — our families, our communities, our state and our nation. We should all aspire to give the gift of education because we all have a stake in giving hope and enthusiasm to future generations. Creating a brighter future for Michigan begins now.

Robert J. Kleine is Michigan state treasurer. Since its debut in 1988 as the nation’s first prepaid tuition program, MET has sold more than 91,000 contracts. More than 90 percent of high school graduates with MET contracts have gone on to attend a college or university.

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