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Certificates disadvantage Black students

I have written that certificates disadvantage Black students at least a dozen times in this space, but it is always nice to receive a little backup. The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies released a new report today that confirms exactly that.

According to The State of Black Students at Community Colleges, community colleges disproportionately route Black students into certificate programs, which produce the lowest economic benefit and leave Black students with more debt than their White counterparts. That misdirection has significant consequences on lifetime earnings, and the ability of Black alumni to escape poverty.

These statistics, which the report examined on a national level, play out very similarly at Washtenaw Community College. Black students earn more certificates but less money than any other alumni. They also accumulate more educational debt, take longer to repay it, and default more often than students in any other ethnic group.

Every time I read something like The State of Black Students at Community Colleges, I immediately recall Trustee Dianna McKnight-Morton’s hard-headed defense of Rose Bellanca in 2013, when the WCC faculty issued a vote of no-confidence in her. Trustee McKnight-Morton said at that time:

“Trustee McKnight-Morton spoke about the presidential search committee that had diverse people on it. She noted that the current board is an advisory board and a policy board, not a micro-managing board. President Bellanca is being a change agent as the Board has directed her.”

So, what is the “change” that the Board has directed its president to accomplish? Changing WCC from a two-year school to a certificate school? Directing Black students into low-value, low-wage careers? Limiting the economic mobility of Black residents of Washtenaw County?

Certificates generate the lowest economic value

I am dying to know. What exactly is this “change” directive issued by the Board of Trustees? And it is not hard to see how Black students living in Washtenaw County are being disadvantaged by this change.

WCC students who live in Washtenaw County will pay a nearly 12% premium for the privilege of completing an online certificate or degree from WCC. Out-of-district and out-of-state students, on the other hand, will earn the same degree at substantial discounts from the published tuition rates. This Administration – with the blessing of the Board of Trustees – is literally taking resources away from Washtenaw County residents and giving them away to non-residents.

Is that the change the Board directed?

We have people in our own community who lack the resources to extract themselves from poverty. Instead of using the largesse of our “rich community” to assist them, the WCC Administration – with the blessing of the Trustees – redirects that investment to people who will likely never set foot in Washtenaw County.

We need better solutions for the community’s most marginalized members, especially when we provide enough resources to do that. WCC cannot continue to direct Black students into low-wage, low-return certificate programs and still be true to the mission of the community college.

Photo Credit: Penn State Beaver , via Flickr