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Education

NEA President visits Michigan to talk "Degrees Not Debt"

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NEA
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She was the first in her family to go to college, but the head of the nation's largest teachers' union fears many Michigan children won't be able to accomplish the same goal if something isn't done about the cost of higher education.

As part of a nationwide tour, Lily Eskelsen Garcia visited Michigan State University this week to meet with future educators and deliver a message she calls "Degrees, Not Debt."

"We want to be able to put in front of these kids the possibilities of what could happen if they move on to higher education," she said, "Well, that's going to be really hard for them to do if they have to sell a kidney to afford university education."

In addition to East Lansing, Garcia also met with students at Flint's Northwestern High School, which has pulled itself out of the bottom 5 percent of the state for student achievement, and with teachers in the metro Detroit area.

Eskelsen Garcia predicted that the skyrocketing cost of college could ultimately rob the entire country of an educated workforce. She's calling on states to reinvest in higher education, with a goal of making it accessible to all students.

"We're not talking about somebody's designer jeans; we're not talking about a commodity that you go out there and buy," she said. "We're talking about a civic community good - that this is a public good, to have a well-educated citizenry."

According to a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Michigan has made some of the deepest cuts in the nation to higher-education funding in the past six years, with an overall decline of 28 percent since 2008. Tuition at Michigan institutions rose 21.5 percent in that same period. That report is online at cbpp.org