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Exploring the four-day work week on campus

A growing phenomenon among education providers at all levels is reducing the number of days a campus is open for business. The four-day work week on campus could provide a number of benefits to both the students and taxpayers. (That’s also probably why the WCC Administration and the Board of Trustees won’t consider it.)

Reducing commuting costs

Closing the campus for one day per week could reduce commuting costs for both students and staff. Although the price of gasoline is decreasing, dealing with the effects of inflation on other expenses is still challenging. Closing the campus to in-person classes and services one day per week could potentially reduce an individual’s commuting costs by as much as 10%-15%.

Reducing energy costs

For quite a while, Washtenaw Community College has been the reigning champion among Michigan community colleges when it comes to utilities costs. For years, WCC has spent more on utilities than any of its peers. And not by a little bit. The most recent data from the State shows that WCC spends nearly twice as much on utilities costs as the next biggest spender, Lansing Community College.

Not having to manage costs is one of the benefits of living in a rich community, I guess.

The prospect of saving – oh, I don’t know – maybe $2M annually of apparently “extra” money wasn’t enticing enough for the Board or the Administration to do something about WCC’s voracious utilities spending until this year. Boosted by COVID-19 money from Washington, DC (along with some ill-timed failures of major systems on campus), WCC performed upgrades that would, in theory, end its reign as the Big Spender on utilities. (Despite the improvements, WCC still blew its utilities budget by $100,000.)

Removing cars from the road

Removing cars from roadways and reducing vehicle trips is highly desirable from an ecological perspective. Moving to a four-day work week could help achieve this objective. It could potentially reduce congestion on the public roadways around the College, reduce wear and tear on the campus roads, parking lots and parking structure, and increase roadway safety in Washtenaw County.

Saving money, building skills and improving maintenance

Closing the buildings for one additional day per week could reap the additional reductions in utilities costs that have so far eluded WCC by other means. Declaring classes to be fully on line for one day per week helps students (and faculty) maintain their online teaching and learning skills. It would also give campus support workers the ability to engage in maintenance projects and improvements that might otherwise go undone when the campus is occupied.

I realize that conserving taxpayers’ dollars is of no particular concern to the WCC Board of Trustees or its Administration. But if you were attempting to create a public benefit by modifying institutional behaviors, a four-day work week might fit the bill.

Photo Credit: Max Braun , via Flickr