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Forget a Facilities Fee. WCC Needs a Management Fee

At the April 6 Spring Trustee Retreat, WCC CFO Bill Johnson made sure to put in a good word for a facilities fee. He reminded the Trustees that 11 Michigan community colleges have one, and the average cost is $9 per credit hour. I have a much better idea: a per-credit-hour Management Fee.

The term “facilities fee” implies that the College will use the money for the facilities. Just like the current Technology Fee implies that the money goes to pay for “technology.” In reality, the Technology Fee goes into the General Fund to be spent on anything and everything.

Realistically then, the WCC Administration would not use a Facilities Fee to support the College’s facilities. This administration has never prioritized its role as caretaker of the facilities Washtenaw County taxpayers have built. And until they’re forced to as a condition of their continued employment, they will not.

Much of the money that goes into the General Fund goes to support the cost of WCC’s massive administration. So, let’s cut to the chase and institute a Management Fee instead. The chart below gives you an idea of the per-credit hour cost of the Management Fee over the past several years. As you can see, the cost of the Management Fee increased 41% between 2012 and 2018.

WCC management fee cost
WCC management fee cost

Calculating the Management Fee

Management costs money, but it isn’t broken out the way a “technology fee” or a “facilities fee” is. Right now, the taxpayers heavily subsidize the cost of WCC’s management. That’s not fair. The taxpayers don’t benefit from WCC’s giant administration.

So, what does it cost to manage an institution of WCC’s size and complexity? WCC must report certain data to the federal government each year. It includes the number of credit hours students enroll in. It also includes the salary costs of all persons employed in a “Management Occupation.” By dividing the number of credit hours into the salary cost of the WCC management, you can see the cost of WCC’s management per student credit hour. That’s what WCC should be charging its students for College management.

Asking students to pay a Management Fee would relieve the pressure of WCC’s administrative overgrowth on the annual budget. And a Management Fee would be completely fair. Students derive immense benefit from WCC’s 10 Vice Presidents and the dozens of managers and directors the College employs on their behalf.

The Management Fee would have to be about $40 per credit hour to pay for all the “management” WCC students are using right now. If that figure is shocking, good. It should be. Students deserve to know how much of their tuition goes to pay for the management of WCC.

I encourage all of you to contact the WCC Board of Trustees to let them know of your support for more transparency regarding WCC’s management costs. Implementing a Management Fee will do just that. Students deserve to know exactly how much the WCC Administration is costing them.

Photo Credit: 401(k) 2012, via Flickr