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  • U.S. pizza mogul: invest in public HE

    - Following HE budget cuts and tuition fee hikes, the U.S. student loan bubble is growing. Michigan, in particular, struggles to move from automobile industry towards a knowledge economy. Investing into public HE is paramount to this endeavor, pizza mogul Patrick Doyle argues.

    Michigan has seen rough times following the financial crisis. Its largest city and economic backbone is Detroit, a city that mostly relies on the automobile giants Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. Data shows that the city's population decreased by over 25% within the last decade. Can investments in higher education help the state turn around this trend?

    Incarceration rates vs. university enrolment

    Business, government and education stakeholders discussed this at the Business Leaders for Michigan higher education summit. Particular advocate of greater state funding for public universities was Patrick Doyle. Doyle is President and CEO at Domino's Pizza Inc., a multinational worth over $3,46 billion (€2,7 billion) and with headquarters in Ann Arbor (Michigan).

    In his speech he argued that "dwindling state funding for universities could have far-reaching economic impact. Our universities are critical to helping us fill the jobs need. Every company wants access to the very best talent, and when those jobs come, they also create jobs for people without degrees."

    He compared Michigan to North Carolina, a state similar with respect to tax revenues, population, unemployment, university enrolments and prison population. He pointed out that the state government there spends $1.3 billion a year on prisons and allocates $2.5 billion to its 16 public universities. Michigan, meanwhile budgeted $1.9 billion for prisons and $1 billion for its 15 public universities for 2012.

    Presidential elections upcoming November

    The overall consensus at the summit was that state funding needed to be increased urgently. Financial means needed to be allocated to universities according to performance measures like research and development expenditures, graduation and retention rates.

    This call fits well with Obama's agenda of increasing higher education funding in the U.S. budget of 2013. Major driver behind this policy move is the concern that students increasingly pile up loan debt as state funding decreases and tuition fees rise. Whether these plans can be turned into reality remains to be seen. In November, the 2012 presidential elections will take place during which Barack Obama will face his opponent Mitt Romney who has a different vision on higher education.