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Addressing the college enrollment decline

For years, the WCC Administration has carried on about the coming enrollment decline. They have used it to justify their plan to open a hotel and conference center on campus. (They do not actually consider the realities of running a hotel.} For example, one Trustee wondered aloud about running the “hotel” as a student dorm in the fall and winter, and a hotel in the summer.

(Um, no.)

Here’s the thing: if the WCC administrators felt confident that they were going to run into a demographically driven enrollment decline, which they did, they should have reduced their spending, which they did not. If revenues are driven by enrollment and enrollment was going to drop, then increasing spending and constructing new buildings was (and is) flagrantly irresponsible.

The WCC Administration will not act in the best interest of the Washtenaw County taxpayers. That’s what the Trustees are supposed to be doing. Even after being told time and time again that there was a serious possibility that enrollment could drop, the WCC Trustees have not acted like they’ve gotten the message.

Instead of preparing the college for the possibility of a college enrollment decline, they authorized the hiring of a dozen Vice Presidents and voted to issue bonds to build “The Advanced Transportation Center.”

The dozen Vice Presidents are currently on the payroll, but the funding for the “Advanced Transportation Center” is on hold, thanks to the pandemic.

College enrollment decline inaction is the WCC Trustees’ responsibility

Now, to be clear, Generation Z is a comparatively large generation, but the number of GenZ students who want to attend a community college is small. But Gen Z’s size is not the only thing that can keep community colleges afloat. Community colleges don’t just attract college students in the traditional 18-22 year-old range. They attract students from a much wider age range – from high school to the mid-60’s.

In that broad stroke, there are enough people to keep community college enrollment comfortably high. And new data have shown that the people most likely to persist in a community college setting are students in the 30-34 age range.

But community college administrators cannot simultaneously cry about the declining college enrollment and help themselves to a broad increase in college expenses. The WCC trustees should immediately demand austerity measures of the administration and cancel new construction on campus.

In the absence of being able to tap into non-traditional student demographics by running programs that result in a high-income, high-demand jobs, the rational move is to prepare the college by reducing expenses.

The questions regarding the college enrollment decline are stunningly simple. Do the WCC Trustees not:

  • Understand the information they’re being given?
  • Understand that it is their job to act on the information they’re being given?
  • Believe the information they’re being?
  • Understand basic economics?

Regardless of the answers to these questions, the lack of fiscal restraint on the part of the WCC administration, under the watchful eye of the WCC Trustees, will have devastating consequences for WCC and for Washtenaw County.

Photo Credit: Pat Joyce, via Flickr