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End WCC Subsidies for Out-Of-District Students

I have written about the prospect of expanding the Washtenaw Community College District before. WCC’s current enrollment splits almost equally between in-district and out-of-district students. That provides a solid reason for seeking to expand the district boundaries.

Washtenaw County residents pay significant property taxes to support Washtenaw Community College in the form of four separate millages. The property tax support keeps WCC’s tuition low. Despite the overwhelming support that Washtenaw County voters provide the college, the WCC Board of Trustees and the Administration have seen fit to extend massive tuition discounts to non-residents.

This forces Washtenaw County taxpayers to subsidize students from outside the district. It also invalidates the notion of a community college district, since living outside of the district incurs no additional cost. Worse, it eliminates any reason out-of-district residents might have to expand the district boundaries.

Conceivably, Washtenaw County residents – the ones who pay taxes to operate WCC – could be shut out of classes filled with out-of-district students.

If the Board of Trustees continues to subsidize out-of-county residents, they owe Washtenaw County residents preferential enrollment. Washtenaw County residents should have an exclusive, preferential enrollment period. Until the preferential enrollment period has ended, WCC may not enroll a single out-of-district student. Once Washtenaw County residents have had ample opportunity to enroll, then and only then should out-of-county residents be allowed to enroll.

Fee increases should apply exclusively to out-of-district students

This arrangement doesn’t change my position at all that out-of-county residents should pay out-of-county rates for tuition, no matter the format of the class they enroll in. WCC has significant sunk costs in the form of campus infrastructure. Those costs don’t go away simply because a student doesn’t ever come to campus.

Which brings up another issue: tuition and fee increases. If the WCC Administration and the Board of Trustees feel it necessary to apply new fees to enrolled students, those fees should apply to out-of district students exclusively until the increases eliminate the subsidy that Washtenaw County taxpayers currently provide.

There is no legitimate reason to offer out-of-district students near-parity on tuition rates while raising per-credit-hour fees on in-district students. If the cost of out-of-district tuition is a barrier to out-of-district students, the best option is to expand the district boundaries. If out-of-county residents want to attend WCC at in-district rates, they should pay in-district taxes.

Photo Credit: Paul Robinson , via Flickr