Unlike the system of elementary and secondary education, our system of higher education in Michigan has long been a system of choice. Graduating high school seniors have always had the opportunity to choose the schools, public or private, to which they apply for admission. It is important to note the many reasons behind students choices of college, including financial circumstances, the students interests, and the students high school achievements. Parents and their graduating seniors survey a full range of options, knowing that because individuals differ, the institutions they attend cannot and should not all be homogenous. No government entity could ever weigh properly all these factors for each individual student and impose its choice. Yet, the government attempts to do exactly that for primary and secondary school students.
The success of the choice model for higher education is partly based on the relative freedom in financing options. The 1970 Amendment to the Michigan Constitution represses virtually all direct or indirect financial support for students attending private schools. No such prohibition exists for higher education, and in fact, a wide range of government financing options are available to students at public and private colleges, even private religious colleges. These include government-subsidized loans and grants, tuition tax credits, and direct government aid to colleges and universities.15 While the direct aid for public colleges generally makes their tuition costs lower than those at private colleges, the existence of tuition tax credits and taxpayer-subsidized loans and grants has helped students exercise choice in higher education. One might question why the 1970 Amendment prohibits an 18-year-old student from getting a tax credit for tuition at a high school but allows it for college tuition.