MSU: excellence made accessible

02-10-2014

President Obama at MSU to sign the Farm Bill into law.

Hosting a presidential visit is always a combination of excitement, detailed planning, and split-second execution. It can also be an opportunity for the host to impart important information.

Friday’s visit by President Barack Obama was no different. Once we received word MSU was the site of the federal farm bill signing, we coordinated with White House officials to plan a short tour of the Michigan Biotechnology Institute (MBI), located directly across from campus.

At MBI, President Obama learned about how the institute combines science, engineering, operational, and business expertise in a flexible space that provides everything from lab bench to pilot plant. In this environment, fuels, chemicals, and other materials from renewable resources move more rapidly from ideas into products that can better the world.

As we moved through the lab, I took a moment to address another area of great interest to the president: access to top institutions by students from families with limited and middle-class incomes. I offered President Obama a few numbers that demonstrate MSU’s mission to provide world-class educational opportunity to students from all walks of life. I told him:

  • We have more than 9,100 students receiving federal Pell Grants—nearly as many as all of the Ivy League schools combined.
  • Across the nation, 71 percent of students leave college with student loan debt. In Michigan, it’s 62 percent, but at MSU, it’s just 46 percent.
  • The loan balance for MSU undergraduates of $25,800 is below the national average of $29,400 and the state average of $29,000.
  • MSU’s six-year graduation rate of 79 percent is 12 percentage points higher than what U.S. News & World Report predicts based on the characteristics of our incoming students, placing us second among all institutions in the Association of American Universities.

None of this is done easily. It requires vision, planning, and commitment.

But from its founding as the pioneer land-grant university, MSU has held firm its commitment to offer extraordinary opportunity to students from families across the economic spectrum. We are a university of international reputation and state, national, and global relevance.

While much of our value is created through the impact of the knowledge we create through research and innovation, as President Obama saw firsthand at MBI, an equally important part of our value is delivered every day as students from all backgrounds benefit from the transformative power of a world-class education.

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