The most striking thing about the rising cost of a college education is that none of the four major players –
– is or can be problematic at a community college without the knowledge and assistance of the institution’s Board of Trustees. All those expenses receive Trustee approval at some point. At WCC, the Trustees simply do not ask about the cumulative effects of any of these costs on the price of a college education.
There is no recognition of the connection between the institution’s ongoing expenses and the cost of taking classes. Or that raising tuition (or fees) produces an immediate drop in enrollment. That authorizing bonds for construction without seeking a millage to pay for them causes tuition to skyrocket.
“How many Vice Presidents does it take to run a community college?” sounds like a bad riff on a lightbulb joke, but at WCC, it’s a legitimate inquiry. WCC is – at best – a medium-sized community college, yet it has more Vice Presidents on the payroll than some state community college systems. The WCC President’s total compensation is greater than those of three of the state’s publicly funded universities. These things directly impact the cost of a college education.
Trustees should acquaint themselves with the word “oversight”
There is no excuse for this, but there is a defense against it: The Board of Trustees. We elect them to scrutinize spending requests by the Administration and when necessary, to say “no.”
“No, we cannot have 13 Vice Presidents on the payroll.”
“No, we cannot build a new building without voter approval.”
“No, we cannot use funds intended for education to build an executive health club.”
“No, we cannot cut the College’s maintenance budget to $300,000.”
“No, we cannot close the on-campus childcare center.”
“No, we cannot defer maintenance on buildings until the bricks fall off and the concrete heaves.”
“No, we cannot raise the President’s salary by 15% over three years, while limiting everyone else’s raises to 6.1% over the same period”.
“No, we cannot sign off on $26M no-bid contracts.”
“No, we cannot use county property tax revenues to build a hotel.”
“No, we cannot decrease the instructional budget by 12% over 8 years.”
“No, we cannot use $4M of government COVID-19 relief funding to cover the operating losses of the executive health club that we should not have approved.”
“No, we cannot authorize new campus construction that does not maximize state funding.”
Anyone who’s raised children knows that saying “no” just isn’t that hard. How much would it cost to attend WCC, and what range of programs could the school offer if the Board of Trustees simply did their jobs?
Photo Credit: Mark Falardeau , via Flickr