The Growing Michigan Together Council, a task force Gov. Gretchen Whitmer charged with drafting recommendations to reverse Michigan’s population decline, suggests normalizing the concept of super-seniors at the high school level.
Super-seniors are college students who stretch four years of a baccalaureate degree over five or six.
The Council recommends that seniors who do not reach the so-called Michigan Education Guarantee – a standard of “future-ready skills and competencies” yet to be defined – receive an additional year of high school education. Super-seniors could take this 13th year alongside credit-bearing courses at community colleges.
Research shows that efficient public spending, which produces value for residents without high tax rates, could be a factor linked to attracting residents to an area. It’s hard to see how a 13th year of public education to reach the same level students are currently expected to reach by their 12th year could be called efficient.
We should consider whether giving students more time to complete basic education requirements will translate to higher skills proficiencies or graduation rates. Postsecondary data provides some insight. The state of Michigan’s own data shows that only one-third of students graduate with a degree four years after enrolling in community college or six years after starting university. At least in this example, more time does not mean more completions.
To describe the pitfall another way, any task expands to fill the time you give it. This is known as Parkinson’s law. Limitations are what keep us focused and productive. Moving the goalposts to allow more time may be reasonable under many circumstances, but shouldn’t we have higher standards for the next generation?
What’s more, higher spending on public schools does not necessarily produce better academic outcomes or educational attainment. We’ve experienced that firsthand in Michigan. Spending on higher education increased by 30% over the last decade, when adjusted for inflation, but academic outcomes did not improve and in some ways got worse.
There’s little research to support the purported link between population growth and the Growing Michigan Together Council’s recommendation to foster high school super-seniors. High school students would be better served by completing their basic education as quickly as possible so they can go on to postsecondary training or enter the workforce. Extending time in high school for students who don’t meet the Guarantee only guarantees their delayed entry into the workforce and even more school spending.
Permission to reprint this blog post in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author (or authors) and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy are properly cited.
Get insightful commentary and the most reliable research on Michigan issues sent straight to your inbox.
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is a nonprofit research and educational institute that advances the principles of free markets and limited government. Through our research and education programs, we challenge government overreach and advocate for a free-market approach to public policy that frees people to realize their potential and dreams.
Please consider contributing to our work to advance a freer and more prosperous state.