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Community colleges need committed Trustees

Recently, I have been writing about the dangers community colleges face in maintaining their occupational education programs. A growing lack of qualified instructors means that those educators already in the classroom have become even more valuable.

Qualifications are a big deal. ” Community colleges must ensure that their instructors meet the standards their accreditors establish. Unqualified” instructors can cost an institution its accreditation. In certain fields, instructors are hard to find. Often, that is because qualified instructors can make more money working in the field than they can in the classroom. In occupational fields, many experienced instructors lack the educational credentials the accrediting agencies require.

So, when a community college loses faculty members, it deals a blow that’s hard to recover from. Washtenaw Community College lost 55 full-time instructors between 2009 and 2011 and replaced only 5, for a net loss of 50. Most of the losses occurred in 2011. In that same period, the number of part-time instructors declined from 798 to 600. (WCC added 7 new full-time executives as well.)

WCC lost nearly 250 instructors in two years. That’s nearly 25% of the teaching staff.

Between 2009 and 2011, the number of credit hours delivered dropped by 2.8% and the unduplicated headcount dropped by 10.2%. Meanwhile, tuition increased by 16.5%.

In a higher education institution, full-time faculty members represent its capacity. They’re the people who develop new programs and refresh existing ones. They have more contact with the students than virtually anyone else at the institution, and they drive the institution’s graduation rates. If the institution were serious about student success, it would hire more full-time faculty members.

Likewise, if the institution were serious about raising enrollment, it would not raise tuition by 16.5%. (Those increases, by the way, helped fund the Health and Fitness Center.)

Community colleges need Trustees who ask questions

Where were the Trustees in all of this? Why were they not asking questions about the loss of a quarter of the full-time faculty? Losing a quarter of the full time faculty commits the institution to losing enrollment. Raising tuition by 16.5% commits the institution to losing enrollment. And those commitments remain in force today. WCC has fewer students and fewer programs today than it did a decade ago.

You would think the Trustees would express ongoing concern about that. Or maybe make it part a strategic (or Master Plan).


There is no commitment on the part of the WCC Trustees to introduce new programs, raise enrollment, or improve graduation rates.

The only evident commitment from the Trustees is to hire more executives.

Photo Credit: Hector Alejandro , via Flickr