Dear Alumni and Friends,

Near the corner of Bates and Congress streets in the heart of downtown Detroit, just around the corner from Campus Martius Park, is a nondescript parking garage with a historic plaque that you’d easily overlook on your way to dinner or a concert. It reads: “University of Michigania,” and tells the story of our great institution’s founding

When the cornerstone for our first building was laid at that spot Sept. 24, 1817 – at a time when Detroit had fewer than 2,000 people, Michigan was not yet a state and trapping beavers was all the rage – the mission was simple but profound: to educate the uneducated. 

In the two centuries since, while U-M’s mission has expanded to encompass research for the public good and our role in providing high-quality health care, our commitment to providing the next generation of Michigan’s leaders with a world-class education continues to inform everything we do. Last school year, that commitment included educating more than 38,000 students from every county in Michigan across our three campuses in Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint. 

And aside from the valuable skills that are fostered in higher education – critical thinking, communication, creativity – we know that earning a college degree will mean so much for these students over the course of their lives. Data released this year by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, for example, showed the median annual wage for a full-time worker aged 22 to 27 with a bachelor’s degree is about $52,000 compared to about $30,000 for someone with a high school diploma. A recent Georgetown University study found that the return on investment for a college degree is more than $800,000 spread over 40 years. 

The benefits to our communities of having a more educated citizenry are just as important. According to a new report from the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities, those with college degrees are more likely to vote, more than twice as likely to volunteer and they contribute nearly 3.5 times more money to charity.

That’s why I heartily commend Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Legislature for approving a budget for the upcoming fiscal year that rightly provides education at all levels – K-12 and higher ed – with significant increases in funding to support students and families and advance Michigan’s economic future. My hope is that we remain on this path. The University of Michigan, as it always has, stands ready, willing and committed to do its part and more.