One might question why the Michigan Constitution prohibits an 18-year-old student from getting a tax credit for tuition at a high school but allows it for college tuition.
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.