Press "Enter" to skip to content

Occupational education shouldn’t take a backseat

For the last couple of days, I’ve written about the most recent WalletHub rankings of community colleges. On one hand, WCC ranks in the top third for cost and financing. On the other hand, it ranks in the bottom 36% for “Career Outcomes.” Given WCC’s history of providing high quality occupational education, this is more than disappointing.

When the voters authorized WCC in 1965, they did so primarily to provide occupational education in Washtenaw County. To be fair, WCC has always provided transfer options for students who wanted to puruse a four-year degree. But in the intervening years, each successive administration has shifted WCC’s focus from serving the needs of students seeking occupational education to those seeking general education transfer credits.

Washtenaw County’s need for occupational programs hasn’t changed. Our need for people who are prepared to enter skill-based careers hasn’t changed. And it isn’t going to change anytime soon.

The Board of Trustees must insist that the Administration refocus on the delivery of excellent occupational education programs that put people in high-skill, high-demand jobs upon graduation. The best way to help individuals who aren’t seeking a four-year degree is to provide low-cost education that facilitates rapid entry into the workforce. That is the “return-on-investment” that Washtenaw County taxpayers both want and deserve.

Today, most students who enter a community college intend to transfer to a four-year program. But the stark reality is that few actually do. There’s nothing wrong with providing general education transfer credits and programs. A community college is a big enough tent to support every student’s goals. However, we must not sacrifice the occupational education programs that put people to work.

That is WCC’s primary mission.

Photo Credit: Michael Pollak, via Flickr