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Do the right thing, and enrollment will follow

I read an interesting article about West Shore Community College, one of Michigan’s smallest two-year public colleges. It seems that WSCC’s winter enrollment is up 12% over last year in terms of the number of students. Its credit hour enrollment is up 14%.

More students taking more classes.

West Shore is located in Scottville, in Mason County, and operates a satellite campus in Manistee. The college also recently opened a regional public safety training center, located a few miles from the main campus.

According to the West Shore website, the current enrollment there is about 1,100 students. If you’re keeping score, it’s less than one-tenth the size of Washtenaw Community College. Its 2018 millage rate is 3.0907, the sixth-highest in the state, so the community has obviously invested in West Shore.

19 of the state’s 28 community colleges have experienced a decline in enrollment this year. If you ask the administration at West Shore why their enrollment has increased, you’re likely to get a shrug.

West Shore students can provide a little more detail about why they’re enrolled. Dual enrollment is attractive for high school students. Being able to complete two years of transferrable credits is also a plus for students who want to complete a four-year degree. It also helps that West Shore has added new academic programs, renovated and expanded certain facilities, and it gives free tuition to Mason County residents.

Dr. Mark Kinney, vice-president of academics and student services at West Shore, offered an interesting perspective about why things seem to be going West Shore’s way at a time when many Michigan community colleges are struggling to retain enrollment. “Our philosophy is to just do the right thing for the community and enrollment will follow.”

West Shore doesn’t avoid its community

Doing the right thing for the community – especially when the community pays the bills – hardly seems like a novel concept. West Shore Community College is using its tax appropriation to offer new programs and assist county residents with the cost of attendance. It sounds like they might even be taking care of their buildings. They also used a donated building to address the area’s need for a regional public safety training center.

I haven’t delved deeply into West Shore’s finances, but I didn’t find any hand-wringing about needing additional revenue. Or plans to build buildings that are irrelevant to West Shore’s mission. Or adding $10-per-credit-hour surcharges to student accounts to pay the college’s loan debts. I also didn’t see the administration or the Trustees twisting the facts regarding the state appropriation. From the looks of it, West Shore is just focusing on doing what a community college should be doing. They’re providing authentic value for their students and meeting the community’s needs.

And their enrollment has gone up.

Imagine that.

Photo Credit: Don Harrison, via