Wayne State’s deep and ongoing commitment to economic development has once again been recognized, as the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) recently extended Wayne State’s prestigious Innovation and Economic Prosperity (IEP) designation for five years.
The designation honors higher education institutions that have demonstrated “a substantive, sustainable and institution-wide commitment to and strategy for regional economic engagement, growth and economic opportunity.”
Wayne State is one of only 85 universities nationwide to receive this designation (the ALPU has more than 250 member institutions and non-members are also eligible). Wayne State first received its designation in 2014 — only the second year the APLU made it available.
“I am excited, but not surprised, that the APLU extended our IEP designation,” said Ned Staebler, Wayne State vice president for economic development and president and CEO of TechTown. “Wayne State was one of the first universities in the nation to receive the IEP designation, and our commitment to economic engagement has only deepened over the past decade.
“The IEP designation both recognizes and reinforces our commitment to economic engagement,” Staebler added. “The IEP universities program is a great opportunity for us to connect with our peers across the country — to share our work and bring best practices back to Detroit and Michigan.”
Wayne State is a recognized economic driver in Detroit and the state of Michigan, with a $2.6 billion annual impact. More than 70% of Wayne State’s nearly 300,000 alumni live and work in Michigan.
“Wayne State is truly in our community, we work for our community and we do so with our community,” said Wayne State President Kimberly Andrews Espy, Ph.D. “We aspire to build upon our strong legacy of economic development in Detroit and Michigan by deepening our engagement with the business community and through efforts like our new College to Career initiative, which will ensure students graduate career ready and prepared to thrive.”
Staebler added, "Wayne State is one of the largest employers in the city of Detroit. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars on supplies and services each year, and our campus is a bustling hub of research, innovation and entrepreneurship. The bottom line is that Wayne State is both an engine of economic opportunity and social mobility for our students, and of economic growth for our city and state.”
Wayne State has been ranked as one of the top universities in the country at providing the strongest return on investment, one that promotes social and economic prosperity for students with the most financial need. Third Way, a nonprofit public policy think tank, ranked Wayne State as a Tier 1 institution in its annual 2023 Economic Mobility Index (EMI). Wayne State is the only Michigan institution with a Carnegie R1 classification — which denotes the highest level of research activity — to make the list in the top tier.
Wayne State seeks to enhance its impact is by continually striving to enhance access to college and create opportunities for its more than 23,000 students, thereby also meeting workforce needs.
“I am particularly excited by the work Wayne State has done over the last decade to increase degree attainment in Michigan,” said Ahmad Ezzeddine, vice president for Academic Student Affairs and Global Engagement. “In 2023, the university announced the Wayne State Guarantee — Michigan’s largest tuition pledge program — which provides tuition assistance for eligible Michigan students so that they incur zero out-of-pocket expenses. Further, our Transfer Pathways programs pave the way for community college and Michigan Reconnect students to transfer seamlessly and earn their four-year degree and launch or advance their careers while saving money and time.
"It joins such groundbreaking programs as the Heart of Detroit Tuition Pledge, which offers free tuition for students who graduate from Detroit high schools or Detroit residents earning a high school diploma, and Warrior Way Back, the only program of its kind in Michigan, which provides debt forgiveness as returning students earn their degree.
“Forty percent of our students are first-generation students, and approximately 50% of our students are Pell Grant eligible, and the university is committed to their student success and ensuring they are career ready.”
The university has long been an economic development leader in higher education. The APLU awarded Wayne State its 2019 IEP Talent award, recognizing exemplary initiatives in education and workforce development. In 2011, it was one of the first universities in the United States to create a cabinet-level Office of Economic Development (OED).
Wayne State’s nonprofit business service organization, TechTown, has been around nearly 25 years and offers a full suite of entrepreneurial services for both tech and neighborhood-based businesses and works in close partnership with the university’s Office of Economic Development (OED).
Wayne State has raised $406 million in startup and growth capital through TechTown and created 14,277 jobs through TechTown since 2007. In 2022, TechTown supported 858 entrepreneurs, 68% of whom are Black or African American.
Wayne State’s OED oversees the Goldman Sach’s 10,000 Small Businesses Detroit program and non-academic student entrepreneurship initiatives. Together, OED and TechTown have become the largest regional economic development group in Michigan.
Outreach and engagement are focus areas in Wayne State’s 2022-27 strategic plan and the Office of Economic Development has a complementary economic impact strategy, which seeks to further Wayne State’s economic impact.