Here’s to the Graduates

June 6, 2014 – A lot of attention is paid at this time of year to all of the young people who are graduating from high school, and that attention is well deserved.  The graduate that most folks picture is the 17 or 18-year old who has progressed through high school at a traditional 4-year clip and is now poised to move forward to college or career.  Michigan’s Children would like to add to that picture our congratulations for the young people who have taken a different path toward their graduation – those who are graduating after spending their 5th or 6th year in high school; those who have returned to a diploma path after having left or been pushed out of high school; and those who have gotten so far behind and had so many life circumstances in the way that they rightly chose to take a GED path to finish this initial credential.  We celebrate the success of these young adults who are also entering into the same job market and post-secondary options as those who took a traditional, consecutive 4-year trek to get to this point.

Recently released data from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce indicates that by the year 2018, 62% of the jobs in Michigan will require postsecondary education.  This confirms that in order to hold self- and family-supporting jobs in the future, the learning trajectory for all young adults is just beginning.  As the Michigan College Access Network suggests, all graduates will need financial accessibility to post-secondary of course; but much more than that, they also need academic preparation, social capital, and knowledge to navigate the process.   We are glad for the attention paid to the need for more accessible post-secondary education, and we support those efforts for the most challenged young people in our state.

For those who will not receive their high school credential this spring, the future trajectory is much more uncertain.  We’ve known in Michigan for many years that once young people fall behind in school, or when they face significant personal and educational obstacles, a traditional high school setting is not always successful in reengaging them, yet few alternatives exist.  Once students have left school before diploma, for whatever reason, they need different options to re-engage.   Not enough young people have been able to take advantage of second and third chance programs for school credential and post-secondary paths because they are not consistently available across this state or consistently accessible for all young people who need them.

Michigan’s Children is interested in taking advantage of the sharp increase in recent attention and resources to improve college access in Michigan and help to better define high school and post-secondary paths for the most challenged young people.  Over the next year we will be developing a fiscal map of current resources that serve the 140,000 Michigan 18-24 year olds without a high school credential to create the best options for policy directions in FY16 state and federal budgets and beyond.  We will continue to utilize existing research to illustrate quality models and communicate that information through multiple channels.  And, we will continue to highlight best practice options for young adults that utilize community, workforce and post-secondary partnerships successfully to serve our most challenged young people, families and communities.

Here’s to the 140,000 potential high school graduates in Michigan.  Let’s build investment in their success.

-Michele Corey