Detroit Regional Chamber: Post-secondary education gaining but more support needed

“We will never reach the 60 percent level and will never really have a functioning…economy unless we address our equity gaps,” Baruah said.

The 2030 strategic plan developed by the chamber-led Detroit Drives Degrees collaborative — which includes business, philanthropy, government, K-12 and higher education groups — has put in place 17 strategies aimed at increasing post-secondary education attainment in the region to 60 percent and reducing the racial equity gap by half by 2030, the chamber’s vice president of education and talent, Greg Handel, vice president of education and talent for the chamber, said.

The efforts include implementing post-secondary transition course and expanding early post-secondary options, incentivizing credit maximization; building institutional capacity to advise students who are struggling; promoting post-secondary credentials of value and building career pathways; establishing regional scholarships for adults; and expanding debt forgiveness programs.

But do people know about them?

While some of the efforts have used targeted efforts to help get the word out, funding to market them more broadly is scarce, Baruah said.

The Detroit Reconnect program is taking its push to spur more adults to complete college directly to students in high schools, and it has trained over 80 ambassadors, who then in turn, use social media, speak in community groups, church groups to “evangelize the value of post-secondary education” and connect people who are interested back to either Michigan Reconnect or Detroit Reconnect to help people navigate that space, Handel said.

Colleges market their own debt forgiveness programs. And the chamber is working with the city of Detroit and the Michigan Education Excellence Foundation to raise funding to be able to market the Detroit Promise program much more robustly, Baruah said, adding that a bigger marketing campaign around the Detroit Promise is in the works.

The Detroit Promise provides eligible Detroit high school graduates with a tuition-free path to an associate degree, bachelor’s degree or technical certificate at participating academic institutions.

“That is something that we all agree that needs to happen…lots of parents don’t even don’t even know it exists,” Baruah said.

“We’re working with other groups to kind of help get the word out. But in terms of our ability to get kind of a broad marketing campaign for that particular program, that’s probably not in the offing right now,” he said. “We just don’t have the resources for that.”