Baker College receiving unfair share of dwindling state aid
April 24, 2006 —
An article in last week's Detroit Free Press revealed that Baker College received $20.3 million last year in state-funded tuition grants - 38 percent of the grant program - despite only graduating 19 percent of its students. The news comes at a bad time for Baker as Michigan's colleges and universities are receiving only a fraction of the aid they once were and have been forced to raise tuition. As a result, lawmakers are asking themselves - and rightly so - why an institution with such a poor track record is gobbling up so much of the state's money.
While Baker is the state's largest private college, with more than 300,000 students on nine campuses, it ranks second to last in terms of graduation rate among private colleges and universities. This may seem alarming to some, but Baker Chief Executive Officer F. James Cummins says the numbers are misleading since Baker offers schooling to students facing various educational hurdles like poor high school educations, poverty, and child care; Baker requires nothing more than a high school diploma or its equivalent for admission and, as a result, cater to many who are trying to see if college is right for them.
Based on the 19 percent graduation rate, it seems the majority of Baker students are finding that it is not.
There is no doubt that it is admirable for Baker to allow disadvantaged students an opportunity to attend college; if just a fraction of the 19 percent did have a difficult past, it seems it would make the gesture more than worthwhile. However, in a time when state funding is down and financial aid is at a premium, one begins to wonder how it is fair that students who do not finish college continue to receive money.
The grant program, as it stands, is designed to provide public support to those attending private institutions and continues to operate so despite attempts by Gov. Jennifer Granholm to use the money for competitive scholarships for students at both public and private schools. But if colleges like Baker continue receiving millions of dollars and still suffer from poor graduation rates, then something should be done to even the playing field.
While there is obviously no easy solution to this very real and complex problem, there is also no doubt that it is unfair that other students are missing out on much-needed financial assistance. These days, when student aid is becoming a rarity, it only makes sense that those who need it most - the ones who see it through and graduate - get first dibs on dwindling dollars.