Mayor Paul Schreiber of Ypsilanti has said the city needs to make the transition from a locale that relied on manufacturers to a college town. Many times over I have raised the question of whether or not the city has the money to make the transition. The debt from a real estate purchase that went badly has left the city unable to pay for capital improvements and public services like parks and recreation have been cut. But another important question is what it means to be a college town.
City officials have already crafted a Master Plan, which charts the path forward. Future residents and a new mayor, since Schreiber has announced he will not seek reelection in 2014, will have to implement it.
The city could model itself off of the city of Ann Arbor, which hosts University of Michigan. Ann Arbor is an attractive place to live, and since Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti border each other it would make sense for them to look and act in a cohesive manner. But there are times it appears University of Michigan luxuriates at the expense of the city.
With that said, University of Michigan is a part of Ann Arbor’s economic composition and provides the city with a substantial amount of human resources.
Center for an Urban Future, a research institution based in New York City, recently wrote a report on the innovations that newly elected mayor, Bill de Blasio, will have to improve on. There was a focus on schools, and the educational infrastructure of the city. One of the innovations in
“Innovations to Build On” was called CUNY ASAP. CUNY ASAP is a program that “blankets incoming students with support services designed to remove common barriers to graduation.”
“It provides tuition aid and tutoring, while students also get free monthly Metrocard and take courses in clusters to make it easier for them to juggle the demands of coursework with outside obligations like part-time jobs and childcare.”
EMU does cater to the nontraditional student. However, the kind of educational osmosis that occurs in most college towns hasn’t occurred in Ypsilanti like it has in Ann Arbor. Data from Ypsilanti’s drafted Master Plan shows that more residents in Ann Arbor have a college degree than those in Ypsilanti.
There is only room for improvement. Those improvements must be done to attract more people and act as a counterbalance to the stories of unsolved murders.
Recently, this newspaper reported on how the B-Side of Youth, a business incubator geared towards the success of entrepreneurs, moved an offshoot, Digital Inclusion, into Sill Hall on campus. Susan Martin, the university’s president, is on the board of Ann Arbor Spark, another business incubator. This does not suffice, however, for the university to become part of the city’s economic composition.
EMU is not a research-driven institution. Because of this, it should make every attempt to direct the human capital – the students – into work that aids the city. The Department of Political Science already helps feed students into the city’s small staff. Service to the city is a service to the school.
All ameliorative efforts count.
If the city looks unsafe, then the school looks unsafe. If the school looks unsafe, fewer people come to the school. If fewer people come to the school, then fewer people see or spend their money in the city.
EMU needs students and the city needs money.
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