Lansing, at 29.4 percent, has a higher rate of people in poverty than bordering states’ capitals, the state of Michigan, and the United States. Richard Robertson, PhD, an ecological economist and associate professor in the Department of Community Sustainability at Michigan State University, says the higher poverty rate in Lansing compared to other nearby state capitals is a part of the economic structure of the cities. “The economy of the greater Lansing area has historically been concentrated in a few areas — namely state government, higher education and the manufacturing industry. While employment in the first two sectors has been mostly stable, the statewide decline in the manufacturing industry between 2000 and 2012 brought numerous Lansing businesses down with it,” Robertson said. While the data on Lansing can sound and look bleak, it’s important to pay attention to the trend of the past couple years, which has shown that the area is headed in the right direction.
It seems high school students, even in the biggest college communities in the state like Greater Lansing, might not even notice they live alongside college towns. Holly Carmody, a lifelong resident of Lansing and recent political science Michigan State University graduate, says the hustle and bustle of the fall semester beginning at MSU in East Lansing is somewhat lost on Lansing youth. “In high school at least, I just know everyone’s focused on their own lives in the fall to really notice what’s going on at MSU,” said Carmody, 23. “I mean I don’t have any older siblings so I wasn’t really concerned with any of that; maybe if I did it would have been different, but yeah.” She says even growing up in Lansing, she didn’t really pay attention to MSU happenings until she was a Spartan herself.
Some Lansing area voters aren’t sure the recent Republican and Democratic National Conventions matter much to people here. Ryan Bock, a history senior at Michigan State University, says he doesn’t think the conventions have a big effect unless they’re a complete disaster. “I think the main purpose of the conventions is the ceremony and the opportunity to have rising stars in the party speak and to get the base behind the election,” Bock, 21, said. “The goal is basically the same for both parties: get some good coverage, a couple nice speeches and get the voters watching fire up about whoever the nominee is.” The Republican National Convention was held at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, from July 18 to 21, with its Democratic counterpart taking place in Philadelphia from July 25 to 28.
The Lansing Promise Scholarship, created by legislation passed in 2009 that made 10 “promise zones” in Michigan, helps provide higher educational opportunities to deserving high school graduates or those who recently completed their GED. The scholarship is a big selling point for MSU Greenline, Michigan State University’s student call center, which asks Spartan alumni to give back to MSU. Jake Evasic, a physics senior at MSU and supervisor at Greenline, says scholarships like the Lansing Promise help callers pull at the heartstrings of alumni and help generate the pathos needed to get them to give back. “I know for sure we call about the Promise Scholarship,” Evasic, 22, said, “it’s something I liked to talk about a lot when I was a caller because you can start getting the alumni to sympathize with what it would be like to not come to MSU.” The scholarship can provide up to an associate’s degree at Lansing Community College or up to $5,000 tuition at MSU.