These issues aren’t in any particular order because they’re all important. As a Washtenaw County taxpayer, you really need to understand how the WCC Trustees spend your money, and what little oversight they actually exercise. In the next six years, WCC will collect about $375M in property tax revenues. Taxes that you approved for WCC’s operations are being diverted to pay for things you didn’t authorize and that aren’t legitimate operating expenses.
Executive compensation ranks among the most important issues for WCC, because the current president now makes about $400,000 in total compensation. While employee compensation rose by a combined 6.1% over the previous three years, the President’s compensation increased by 15.5%. At the same time, the enrollment at WCC declined by nearly 6% in 2021-22, and total credit hours also declined, even with what should have been a home run with the Michigan Reconnect program.
The Health and Fitness Center and the WCC Trustees
The Health and Fitness Center at WCC was supposed to support itself. It has not, and as a result, the facility has been draining dollars from WCC’s general fund. In FY2022, the WCC Administration transferred $4M in federal COVID-19 relief funds to reimburse WCC for the facility’s operating losses.
The kicker with The Health and Fitness Center at WCC is this: as Washtenaw County taxpayers, you already pay up-front for a fitness facility – the Merri Lou Murray Recreation Center – which you approved the bonds and operating funds for. But you also pay for The Health and Fitness Center at WCC – a shadow facility you did not agree to pay for. Instead, the WCC Board of Trustees used WCC’s General Fund to guarantee repayment of bonds they issued without your permission. Because this facility isn’t paying its own way, the money you gave WCC to pay for its operations is paying for millions in bond debts instead. (Debt, by the way, is NOT an operating expense.)
WCC Is Not Considered a Two-Year School
If you think of WCC as a two-year school, you should adjust your thinking. The US Department of Education classifies WCC as a “certificate school” because it issues more non-degree certificates than it issues associate degrees. Other examples of certificate schools include truck driving schools and beauty colleges. This makes it very difficult for businesses to justify locating large facilities here. (Think battery plants, EV manufacturing facilities, chip fabrication facilities, etc.) The technical education capabilities that make these investments worthwhile are no longer in Washtenaw County.
So, why is WCC now a certificate school instead of a school that issues mostly associate degrees? Blame the Legislature, which rewards higher education institutions that issue any credential, not just degrees. WCC now issues more certificates than any community college in Michigan.
WCC Has An Absurd Number of Vice Presidents
Twelve Vice Presidents of one kind or another. No other similarly sized community college in the United States has as many Vice Presidents as WCC does. Many statewide community college systems don’t have that many Vice Presidents. The good news is that this number is lower than it was recently: 13.
- VP Facilities Development & Ops
- AVP Facilities Operations
- AVP College Advancement
- VP Labor Relations & CHRO
- AVP of Human Resources
- VP Student Services
- VP PR, Marketing, Chief Communications Officer
- VP Economic & College Development
- VP&Chief Workforce/Community Development Officer
- Interim VP of Instruction
- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
- Provost & Chief Operating Officer
Along with the VPs come the Secretaries, Executive Secretaries, and Executive Administrative Assistants. You might also notice in the list above that more than one department has a Vice President and an Associate Vice President. And not to be overlooked, most of these executives (and the WCC president) don’t live in Washtenaw County.
This is how the WCC Administration is spending your money, and what the WCC Trustees are signing off on.
Washtenaw County Taxpayers Subsidize Out of District and Out of State Students
If you are a resident student and want to earn an online degree from WCC, you’ll pay 12% more in tuition than you would if you attended classes in person. If you’re an out-of-district or out-of state student, you’ll pay between 27%-75% less than you would if you attended class in person. As a Washtenaw County taxpayer, your tax dollars are being used to pay the educational expenses of non-district and out-of-state residents.
WCC’s Detroit Regional Chamber Membership
WCC is an “Elite” member of the Detroit Regional Chamber (of Commerce). Other “Elite” members include Amazon, Bank of America, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan, Borg Warner, Chase, Comcast, CVS Health, Delta Airlines, the Detroit Pistons, DTE, Ernst & Young, Ford, General Motors, Plante Moran, PNC Bank, Stellantis, Toyota and Verizon, among others. WCC is the only community college to occupy this membership tier – which costs tens of thousands of dollars per year. And 6% of each membership goes to the group’s political action committee. Does that mean WCC is spending our tax dollars on political advocacy?
Again, this is your tax dollars at work. How many of these “Elite” members hire people with the non-degree certificates WCC is churning out?
$12 Per Hour Jobs
If you – as a single person – want to live in Washtenaw County, the researchers at MIT estimate that you need to make about $19 per hour. WCC advertises a “training” program offered on behalf of a group of local employers, who will hire program completers into jobs that pay $12 per hour. Is it in anyone’s best interest to waste even one dollar on short-term training programs that start workers out just barely above minimum wage? Isn’t it better to let those employers run their own training programs, and let WCC develop degree programs that create more living-wage households?
Waiting 10 Years to Fix the Morris Lawrence Building Cost You A Cool $10.3M
In its 2013 Capital Outlay Plan, WCC characterized the renovation of the Morris Lawrence Building as its Number One priority. In 2022, WCC finally got around to renovating the building. During that gap, the cost of renovations rose by $10.3M. All the money to pay for the building reconstruction came from WCC’s operating funds. (You know, the money you thought was going to keep the lights on went to a deliberately long-delayed capital project instead.)
Closing The Children’s Center
Good daycare is hard to find. Inexpensive daycare is nearly impossible to find. So, amid the pandemic, WCC closed an on-campus childcare facility that was licensed for 135 children, offering instead to subsidize off-campus daycare. The problem is that the rules about what the subsidies would actually pay for are so out of whack with reality that the subsidy offer is nearly unusable. Not to mention the fact that few state-licensed daycare operators work in the evening, when student-parents may need care. More jobs lost. More licensed daycare slots lost, and for what? To move the WTMC drop-off point to the back of the campus.
Two $5 fee increases is the same thing as one $10 fee increase
WCC has not raised its tuition in several years. But this fall, the WCC Trustees did institute a $5 “technology infrastructure” fee. This money goes directly into the General Fund with no restrictions on how it will be spent. This is half of the proposed fee to pay for several large construction and renovation projects on campus. So, why are we even talking about new buildings when student enrollment is down?
Photo Credit: Daniel Scally , via Flickr