Laptop with ConnectEDU on screen/Stock photo Laptop with ConnectEDU on screen Stock photo

provide everything they say it will provide."

To have such tools available to students gives them a better sense of their options, Bardwell said. He added that he has seen the rise of online applications motivate students to apply to more schools. Proponents say these portals also reflect the Obama administration's ongoing focus on college and career readiness.

"Many of our state's governments have recognized the critical importance of moving more students to college or a post-secondary degree program in order to sustain economic growth," said former acting governor of Massachusetts Jane Swift, who joined ConnectEDU as senior vice president of government solutions and strategy.

While a purpose-based, customized Web portal for students is not a complete solution, Swift said, the site helps "address important places where most students fail."

The Million-Dollar Debate

The idea for MiCAP came after Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm's education adviser learned that North Carolina's portal had boosted college participation among low-income students, according to Terry Stanton, public information officer for the Michigan Department of Treasury.

In 2008, Granholm designated the Treasury Department to administer the U.S. Department of Education's College Access Challenge Grant (CAGG), which provides the state with more than $4 million for two years -- about a quarter of which was set aside for MiCAP. But opponents argue that college students could have created the site themselves and saved the state hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"Students from a Michigan school could have built such a Web site to ease the government's needs," Michigan State's The State News opinion piece said. "These students also are most likely willing to be paid next to nothing to design the site, saving the state the ridiculous amounts of money being shoveled to the East Coast."

Only time will tell if the site proves to be successful. When asked about the portal's return on investment, Stanton pointed to the earning potential of students who can acquire more than a high school diploma.

"College graduates earn about a million dollars more than the average high school graduate," he said. "MiCAP will help make higher education more accessible for every student, something that is essential to building a strong economy and creating more jobs in Michigan."

 

Russell Nichols  |  Staff Writer