Detroit is a city on the rise, and Central Michigan University is continuing to play a role in its resurgence.
As unemployment and poverty rates in the city have dropped, Detroit has earned the nickname "America's Comeback City" and now is an increasingly attractive location for businesses ranging from startups to established Fortune 500 companies.
And few features draw new businesses quite as powerfully as the presence of a well-educated workforce.
That's why CMU is partnering with Quicken Loans and the city of Detroit to provide discounted educational opportunities for employees and their families. At a signing ceremony Friday, the university restated its commitment to an economically vibrant Detroit.
"We are proud to play a part in Detroit's return to prominence," said Steven Johnson, vice president of Enrollment and Student Services at CMU. He noted that these partnerships represent an expansion of the educational programming the university has offered in the area for nearly 50 years.
Livingston, Ware and Johnson signed the educational partnership agreements at the CMU Detroit office.
The new educational partnership agreements provide employees at both the city of Detroit and Quicken Loans discounted tuition for classes taken online, in CMU's Detroit office or in any of five satellite locations in metro Detroit. The discount extends to employees' spouses and dependents, as well, also for online or satellite-location classes.
Detroit-based students can choose from a variety of undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs, including CMU's popular, flexible Master of Science in Administration degree.
“We are dedicated to this community and have a responsibility to the city of Detroit. In our partnership with CMU, it’s clear that the university shares that same vision.” — Jim Livingston, VP of Talent Acquisition, Quicken Loans
In addition, CMU will provide free, periodic professional development workshops to employees, offering opportunities to further develop their skills and leadership.
Iris Ware, chief learning officer for the city of Detroit, said this is the city's first partnership with a public university. She said the agreement would equip employees with the tools and resources they need to be successful.
"Education is a game changer. It's a life changer. Education changes the whole picture, for individuals, for employers and for the city," she said.
A critical component of success
"Continuing education is critical to the quality of our workforce and to the success of our team members," said Jim Livingston, vice president of Talent Acquisition at Quicken Loans. "We are looking for opportunities to provide a high-quality education at a price that is very affordable for our team members and their families. That is why we've chosen to partner with CMU."
Johnson said the partnerships fit CMU's mission of preparing students — including working adults — for productive careers.
"We value our community partnerships. By offering these educational opportunities to employees at Quicken Loans and the city of Detroit, CMU's exceptional faculty and educational programs will continue our longtime investment in the city and across metro Detroit," Johnson said.
The agreements will also help to close the gap between the Detroit workforce's existing skill set and the demand from employers, Ware said.
Partnering for Detroit's future
According to the U.S. Census Bureau's Quick Facts for Detroit, only about 14 percent of persons 25 or older have a bachelor's degree or higher. And since the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the number of jobs requiring college degrees will continue to rise, there is work to be done to support Detroit residents in their quest for rewarding careers.
CMU has offered programs in metro Detroit since 1972 and now operates a downtown hub and five suburban satellite locations, allowing residents flexible options to pursue their degrees and certifications.
"Education is a critical component of our business model and part of the role we want to play in Detroit's resurgence," Livingston said.
He said that Quicken Loans has made education and employment top priorities when investing in its community, including financial support for team members and their families who pursue continuing education.
The impact of higher education can be substantial on individuals and families and for the city of Detroit as a whole. In its most recent Education Pays report, the College Board noted that higher educational attainment is linked to increased volunteerism, improved civic engagement and a healthier population.
Building on existing connections
Quicken Loans' decision to partner with CMU was based on the company's long, positive relationship with the university, Livingston said.
CMU is one of Quicken Loans' top three recruiting partners, with more than 400 CMU alumni employed in the Quicken Loans Family of Companies and dozens of students interning with the companies each year. In 2017, Quicken Loans was named one of CMU's premier business partners, alongside Ford Motor Co.
Livingston also noted that CMU alumni working at Quicken Loans are among the most engaged and enthusiastic about serving the community.
"We are dedicated to this community and have a responsibility to the city of Detroit. In our partnership with CMU, it's clear the university shares that same vision," he said.
Painting the halls maroon and gold
CMU alum Janelle McLaughlin, team leader of the internship program at Quicken Loans, said it's common to see the symbols of her alma mater around the office. In fact, working at Quicken often seems like an extension of her time at the university, she said.
"When I graduated from CMU, I felt like I was leaving a family. When I got to Quicken, I quickly realized I had found another," the 2016 marketing, events management and leadership studies graduate said. She frequently sees teammates dressed in CMU's maroon and gold and cubicles decorated with CMU pennants.
She's excited this partnership may allow more of her colleagues to experience a CMU education.
"My education at CMU helped me develop the confidence to lead others. I loved that most of my faculty had real experience working in the field and the emphasis on teamwork. If I ever decide to continue my education, it will be at CMU."