New ERN Report Uncovers Yawning Racial Disparities in MI Higher Ed 

Blogs, Letters & Testimonials

July 20, 2020

CARES Act Funding Could Remedy Opportunity Gaps, Reduce Burden of Debt

Read the full report here.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 20, 2020) –– A new report, released today, details how Michigan state officials can use the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to address troubling racial and socioeconomic disparities in the number of students earning a degree at Michigan colleges and universities, as well as abnormally high student loan default rates among Michiganders.

The report, by a former Obama administration Assistant Secretary of Education writing on behalf of Education Reform Now, compares Michigan college access, affordability, and degree attainment performance to that of nearby states and breaks down how federal COVID-19 relief aid could be applied to narrow the racial, economic, and geographic gaps in college-going, student debt, and completion in Michigan. Currently, Black students at Michigan four-year colleges are 58% less likely to graduate than their white peers. Across the state, 12 percent of Michigan student loan borrowers default within 3 years of school exit —a default rate that is 33% higher than the national average.

“Michigan leaders have a choice: they can allow COVID-19 to exacerbate racial inequities within higher education or they can choose to use this crisis to craft long-term strategies for Michigan public higher education to better meet the needs of all students and communities,” said Michael Dannenberg Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Higher Education at Education Reform Now.

Recommendations include targeting all education-related COVID-19 federal support and state higher education funds towards schools and colleges serving the most economically disadvantaged students; requiring all college courses for this coming school year be designed for delivery fully on-line to the maximum extent feasible; and holding colleges and college leaders accountable for increasing racial minority enrollment, overall socioeconomic mobility, and reducing the gap in access and completion rates for students of color and students from low-income families, as compared to peer institutions.”

The report notes that while Michigan has done commendable work to increase college enrollments and make higher education more affordable for students from low-income families, there is more work to do to ensure that institutions of higher education are admitting and graduating Black and Hispanic students, as well as students from low-income families and students living in rural communities.

Read the full report here.


Education Reform Now (ERN) is a non-partisan, nonprofit think tank and advocacy organization that promotes increased resources and innovative reforms in K-16 public education, particularly for students of color and students from low-income families. We seek forward progress in public education—at the federal, state, and local level—developing and advocating for new, bold ideas and mutually reinforcing policies in elementary, secondary and post-secondary education


Victoria Fosdal
National Director of Communications