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High-wage educational programs should be the norm

Recently, WCC announced that it was part of a larger group of community colleges in Southeast Michigan that will share in a grant by the Ballmer Group and the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. The purpose of the grant is to provide high-skill, high-wage educational programs that will enable participants to take jobs that earn at least $40,000.

I’m not complaining since it’s a start, but WCC should be doing this with every academic program. And while laudable, the goal still falls short of the minimum needed to crack Michigan’s middle class. WCC doesn’t need a grant to fund this kind of program development. Washtenaw County taxpayers will be sending $70M WCC’s way this year alone. That should be plenty to finance the development of high-wage educational programs.

Instead, the Administration shakes down in-district students for an additional $4 per credit hour to pay for capital expenses. This is clearly something the taxpayers should be funding, and I have no doubt that they would, if asked. But the Board of Trustees simply and steadfastly refuses to put these issues in front of the taxpayers.

Further, the Administration is handing out generous discounts to out-of-district students who take online courses at WCC. Washtenaw County receives no benefit whatsoever from out-of-district students who enroll in WCC online classes, so there is no earthly reason that Washtenaw County taxpayers should subsidize their cost of attendance.


It is not the responsibility of Washtenaw County taxpayers to educate at a discount whomever comes along, especially when the actual cost of delivering an hour of instruction is about $250. Rather than raise tuition for in-district students, the Board of Trustees should eliminate the county subsidy for out-of-district students, regardless of how they receive instruction.

Can we reap the benefit of high-wage educational programs

It is backward policy like this that prevents Washtenaw County taxpayers from realizing full value from their investment in WCC. How many high-wage educational programs could WCC develop and implement if it weren’t spending our tax dollars educating out-of-district students?

How much more economic development could WCC drive if it weren’t spending more than $1M every year to pay the debt service on a quasi-private health club that plays no significant role in the education of WCC students? And how much economic opportunity will we lose if this administration goes forward with its Master Plan to divert education taxes to build a hotel and conference center on campus?

Make no mistake about it: Washtenaw County loses when the WCC administration ignores the creation of high-wage educational programs to focus on priorities that do not anticipate and address the economic and employment needs of Washtenaw County residents.

Photo Credit: Ervins Strauhmanis , via Flickr