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Nearly half of Michigan residents live in poverty

A newly released report from Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s Poverty Task Force (PTF) says that 43% of Michigan residents don’t make enough money to get by. According to the report, these Michigan residents cannot afford their basic needs. The report defines these as food, shelter, transportation, communication and childcare.

The report addresses the conditions of the so-called “working poor.” These residents work, but do not make enough money to pay for their core expenses. In Michigan, a single person must earn $21,000 per year to pay for their basic needs. A four-person household needs $61,000 to pay for their basic needs.

The question of poverty is important. Despite the depiction of Ann Arbor as a “rich community,” the rest of Washtenaw County isn’t rich. In fact, 16% its pre-pandemic residents lived in poverty.

Living in poverty has a lot of downsides, not the least of which is its impact on children. Children born to wealthy parents tend to stay wealthy. Children born to poor parents tend to stay poor. Of children born in the 1980’s into the lowest earning 20% of households, fewer than 10% made it into the top 20% of earners as adults. The reason? The lowest wage earners do not to go to college. And as it turns out, neither do their children.

Education is the key to eliminating poverty

Education has a lot to do with breaking the cycle of poverty. This is not headline news. Additionally, the cost of post-secondary education is a big determinant in whether or not a person attends college.

So, given that these factors are both known and understood, one needs to question why the WCC Board of Trustees is willing eager to raise tuition (or fees) to cover the cost of unnecessary construction, knowing that raising the cost of attendance lowers the likelihood of attendance for the poorest of students. In short, raising tuition keeps poor people right where they are.

Raising tuition (or fees) by an outlandish $10 per credit hour believing that the increase will somehow NOT negatively impact enrollment is either na├»ve or willfully ignorant. When your mission is to educate low-income residents in the community and you propose to introduce a $10 per credit hour fee, you lose the right to be surprised when your enrollment falls as a result. You can only assert that a $10 per credit hour fee is not going to “break the bank” if you ignore the fact that most community college students don’t have a bank to break. And you can only be “ok with that” if you refuse to acknowledge that your own lousy decision-making created the financial problems that you now want the students to fix for you.

Photo Credit: Brian Mulloy , via Flickr