Three Michigan Universities Tout Economic Results from Research Collaboration, but Leaders Wary of Closer Alliance

An alliance between Michigan’s three largest research universities has produced an economic impact of more than $15.2 billion across the state over the past four years, according to a report issued Tuesday by the Anderson Economic Group.

Members of the University Research Corridor have invested more than $1.8 billion in research, which represents growth of approximately 30 percent, according to Anderson Economic Group. In the same time span, the URC, comprised of the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University has cultivated the launch of 131 start-up companies.

The results are “an indicator of how truly world class these research universities are and what a tremendous asset they are to the state of Michigan,” said Jeff Mason, the URC director, in a written release. But the success of the collaboration does not necessarily mean the three universities want to grow closer together.

On Tuesday, presidents of the three universities appeared at the Detroit Economic Club and argued against the possibility of consolidating them into a single statewide system, the goal of a bill that has been referred to committee within the Michigan state Legislature. Currently, Michigan’s 12 public universities are operated autonomously.

A commission made up of 11 people appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder could analyze the current higher-education structure in the state and make recommendations on how to cut costs, up to and including consolidating some universities, according to a report today in the Detroit Free Press.

Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman said the universities have responded to economic conditions and been “fiscally responsible.” Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon questioned whether consolidation would really save money. “If you add layers, you add cost,” she told the newspaper.

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