- Michigan higher education officials are trying a variety of approaches to attract students from rural areas to state colleges by allaying their fears about cost and big campuses.
- Bridge magazine from the Center for Michigan spotlighted students who are reluctant to attend college or don’t try, and describes the various ways that the state is providing better supports.
- Michigan is in the lower end of state rankings for total number of college graduates, and the problem has hurt the state's economy. For example, Michigan is out of the running for Amazon's new second headquarters because the company said the state didn’t have enough college graduates.
Michigan officials have found that students from rural areas are often intimidated by urban regions or big institutions and don’t realize that the sticker price for some universities can be as much as double the real net cost to students. At Eastern Michigan University, for instance, tuition, room and board are listed at $23,385, but the average net cost is less than $12,000 for students whose families earn less than $30,000. Poor and rural students also often don’t get enough guidance about applying for and attending college from their high schools, and because the college experience is new to their families, the learners lack adequate sources of information, state officials have found.
The Michigan College Access Network offers a variety of supports, including an AdviseMI program through two large state universities that places more than 100 recent graduates as counselors in low-income and rural high schools. At least one high school dropped a regular field trip to instead take students to visit college campuses. Central Michigan University also reimburses transportation costs to school districts for students who are bused in for a college tour.
Research has shown students who don’t have a college nearby are less likely to attend and some institutions, such as Texas Tech University, have stepped up efforts to recruit from rural areas.
A survey by Inside Higher Education showed that more than half of the admissions offices participating said they were going to recruit more from rural high schools. Swarthmore College, for instance, has developed a Small Towns at Swarthmore program for that purpose. The New York Times also highlighted a number of colleges hoping to enroll more students from rural areas.