Learning: Mroz discusses economy, education

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette Michigan Tech President Glenn Mroz recently spoke on the connection between economy and education, and how popular opinion regarding education has shifted from end of the spectrum to the other in just over a decade.

HOUGHTON — Michigan Technological University President Glenn Mroz was the speaker at the Houghton Rotary Lunch Thursday, and he discussed education and its changing perceived value, along with its connection to the economy.

Mroz began with discussing an article he had recently read by Margaret Spellings in which she included a quote from an edition of the Raleigh Register printed in 1829.

“Gentlemen, I hope you do not conceive it at all necessary that everybody should be able to read, write, or cypher,” Mroz read. “Such luxuries might be feasible for future lawyers or doctors, but if a man is to be a plain farmer or mechanic, they are of no manner of use, but a detriment.”

Going back that far, he said, people argued the value of education, “although on a much more basic level.”

Mroz said when he became Michigan Tech’s president in 2004, the governor at the time was asking Michigan residents: “If we have to cut the budget, what should we cut?”

“And everybody wanted to cut education,” he said. “It was kind of startling, because 75 percent of Michigan parents didn’t see education as essential for getting ahead in life.”

Popular opinion has drastically over the past 14 years, more than reversing the statistics.

“Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago,” he said. “Another poll of Michiganders by the Glengariff Group, which was sponsored by the Michigan Association of State Universities, found that 78.8 percent now said they would support a significant increase in funding for the universities to keep tuition low, and only 14.5 percent said they opposed it, and 65.8 percent said government has a responsibility to ensure all qualified students have an opportunity to earn a degree. It came basically to 90 percent now it’s important to have a degree in order to get a job, so there is a whole, big sea change.”

What happened to change those statistics in 14 years? The economy, said Mroz.

Half of the manufacturing jobs lost in the United States were lost in Michigan, said Mroz, which amounted to 854,400 jobs, and of those, probably 250,000 of them will not return to Michigan.

“Not because they went to Mexico or someplace else,” he said, “but because they went to machines.”