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Michigan Community College Enrollment Data Revisited

In one of Bill Johnson’s April 6 presentation to the WCC Board of Trustees, he stated that credit hour enrollments at Michigan’s community colleges had dropped by 32%. WCC’s credit hour enrollment drop was more modest – at 7.5%. It’s important to revisit the Michigan community college enrollment data Johnson presented because his credit hour enrollment data do not correspond to publicly available data.

Between 2013-14 and 2018-19, Michigan community college enrollments dropped. No disagreement there. In Michigan, as reported by the community colleges themselves, total credit hour enrollment dropped from 4,456,848 credit hours to 3,391,936. That’s a drop of 1,064,912 credit hours, or 23.89%. That’s still a significant drop, but it isn’t the 32% that Johnson reported.

Similarly, WCC’s total credit hour enrollment between 2013-14 and 2018-19 dropped from 251,091 credit hours to 242,012 credit hours. That’s a difference of 9,081 credit hours, or 3.6%. That contrasts with the 7.5% reported by Johnson. When you compare WCC’s total credit hour enrollment data to its unduplicated headcount, the average number of credit hours per year per student dropped from 12.15 credit hours to 11.42 credit hours.

State of Michigan high school enrollment data tell a different story

The other piece of information that’s important to revisit is the high school enrollment data. Johnson munged together a bunch of nonsensical and non-applicable data to support a baseless claim that WCC was amid a huge drop in enrollment among high school graduates. He also claimed that Washtenaw County was tapped out in terms of students willing to enroll.

According to data from the State of Michigan, in 2018-19, high schools in the Washtenaw Intermediate School District graduated 3,599 seniors. 21.5% of those graduates enrolled at Washtenaw Community College within 6 months of their high school graduation. 30.5% of the county’s high school graduates in 2017-18 had enrolled at Washtenaw Community College within 24 months of their high school graduation. 32.8% of high school graduates in 2016-17 enrolled at WCC within 36 months of their high school graduation.

As time goes on, a Washtenaw County high school graduate is more likely to enroll at WCC. The statement that Washtenaw County high school graduates are somehow not enrolling at WCC is just plain wrong.

It is one thing to make an erroneous statement. It is another thing to cobble together a raft of erroneous statements to justify poor decisions. But it is yet another thing to use these erroneous statements as the basis of enrollment and credit hour predictions for the future.

Start questioning the Administration’s presentation of the enrollment data

The College’s own data show that unduplicated headcount rose between 2013 and 2019. The percentage of Washtenaw County high school graduates that enroll at Washtenaw County is high (more than 20%) immediately after graduation and increases as time goes on. The average number of credit hours per student per year has dropped, but not significantly. Overall, the data show that WCC’s unduplicated headcount and its credit hour enrollment have been fairly stable over time.

It is of deep concern that the Trustees appear to tolerate the deliberate misrepresentation of the College’s enrollment data. Worse, they seem to accept this nonsense as the basis for both strategy and planning.

Photo Credit: Dunk , via Flickr