Grand Rapids Community College President Bill Pink explained the importance of higher education to partner with K-12 districts when he spoke today at the Mackinac Policy Conference.
Alongside Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Detroit Regional Chambers annual gatherings of the state’s top business, government, civic, philanthropic and entrepreneurial leaders, Pink discussed the attention students need to help keep students on track for college.
According to Pink, the current issue in Michigan is keeping high school students on the track to college.The Georgetown Center of Education and the Workforce analysis found that Michigan will need 175,00 new graduates with four-year degrees and 126,000 graduates with a 2-year degree or career skills certificate in order to meet the proper workforce. If Michigan students continue to focus on other paths outside of a higher education Michigan’s workforce may suffer the consequences.
During his Thursday presentation on Mackinac Island, Pink said one of the solutions to this issue is applying heavy support of K-12 districts from higher education and encouraging community-based organizations and local employers to work together.
“Ignoring the problem is not an option nor is pointing fingers. It’s all our fault, and it’s all of our responsibility to fix it,” Pink stated in a news release shared by GRCC after his presentation. “We need to get to a point as a state where we recognize the issue, but also say, ‘How do we tackle this together?’”
GRCC supports to Grand Rapids Public Schools by helping to create a nice transition to college with the help of GRPS Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal. GRCC has also created more middle college programs and assigned GRCC success coaches to work with students at GRPS along with summer programs to help students retain information for their upcoming freshman year.
Higher education supporting K-12 districts has proven to help increase students attendance to college. Because of the collaboration GRCC has with GRPS, Pink said there has been an increase of 31 percent of students who attended last fall.
GRPS students are also eligible for the Challenge Scholars program which gives students a variety support and makes them eligible for free tuition through collaboration of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation and GRCC.
“We’re being aggressive and have strong partners who also are committed to helping all students have opportunities to succeed,” Pink stated. “We’re proud to be making progress.”
GRCC also helps current college students by working with more than 400 employers on training opportunities for students. Along with this partnership, GRCC works with other colleges and employers in this region to help support students of Michigan. These colleges and employers include: Muskegon and Montcalm community colleges, Spectrum Health, Mercy Health, Cherry Health, West Michigan Works! And U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Apprenticeship.
“We’ve not solved every problem in West Michigan, but we’re making progress,” Pink stated in a news release. “It’s not easy, and it takes time. But we’ll only eliminate this crisis if we work together. There are leaders in this room who can make it happen in their communities.”