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High rent, low income potential await WCC students

The Joint Centers for Housing Studies at Harvard University recently released an analysis of rental housing costs using 2022 data. The results will not come as a surprise to any renter. The cost of rent is too damned high.

According to the Harvard analysis, the number of renters who must spend more than 30% of their household income on rent hit a record high in 2022. Fifty-one percent of all renters in the United States spent more than 30% of their monthly household income on rent in 2022. Severely burdened renters are defined as those who spend more than 50% of their household income on rent. As of 2022, twenty-eight percent of renters are classified as severely burdened. That means just one out of five renters spends 30% or less of their monthly household income on rent.

Currently, the housing market isn’t offering any financially palatable alternatives. Mortgage interest rates have edged past 7% and the median home price in Michigan is nearly $230,000. In Washtenaw County, the median home price in January 2024 was $371,000. To afford the median home price here, a buyer would need an annual salary of not less than $100,000, which also assumes a 10% down payment and a 30-year fixed mortgage. Rent consumes so much of the average person’s income that setting aside a 10% down payment just isn’t realistic.

The high cost of housing is a financial disaster for those who rent. Not only does high rent consume a large proportion of most renters’ income, it prevents these renters from saving money, paying other bills, avoiding debt, and even meeting their other basic needs.

Rent makes Washtenaw County unaffordable

So, in this environment, which the Harvard researchers label as toxic, it is highly counterproductive to have a community college that specializes in churning out low-wage graduates. How is the strategy of cranking out non-degree certificates as fast as a printer will generate them helpful to the students, the local economy, and local employers? Especially in a county that is home to Michigan’s 9th most expensive city?

How does that strategy support the State of Michigan’s goal of having 60% of Michigan’s adults earn 60 college credits by 2030? We do not need our community college to produce large quantities of workers who cannot access higher paying jobs even after attending classes. Yet, that’s exactly what we have at WCC.

The WCC Administration can’t churn out bad ideas fast enough, but it is ultimately the responsibility of the WCC Board of Trustees to make decisions in the best interest of the community. At some point, the WCC Board of Trustees will need to demand better outcomes for the students at WCC. If they don’t start moving in this direction soon, virtually no WCC attendees will be able to remain in Washtenaw County.

What do you call someone who went to WCC? A Monroe County resident.

Photo Credit: Mike Linksvayer, via Flickr