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Recruiting students is a more reliable income source

Yesterday, I wrote about the need for WCC to shift its approach to recruiting students. The WCC administration has identified the decline in the high-school age population as a particular concern. But they’re not doing anything of note to get high school students in the door.

Statistics collected by the State of Michigan show that one-third of all high school graduates in Washtenaw County (in any given year) will end up at WCC at some point. Some students enroll immediately after graduation. Others take a less direct route.

According to data released by WCC, the average age of its most recent graduating class was 29. Statistically, about two-thirds of those graduates will have attended part-time. If you assume a six-year graduation rate, that means the average graduate started taking classes at age 23. That means they started at WCC five years after their high school graduation.

The numbers show that focusing only on the size of the graduating high school class is misguided. WCC’s most promising pool of applicants is not those who enroll directly out of high school. Rather, it is young adults in their 20’s and 30’s. Unlike a traditional four-year university, the community college does not need to chase students fresh out of high school. Older students returning to school will produce more income and a better overall result.

Further, Michigan’s free tuition programs have demonstrated that there is significant interest in a two-year education. These programs target those individuals who are working in low wage, “front line” occupations, as well as adults over the age of 25 who never earned a college degree.

Recruiting students from target demographics will produce more revenue

It is ludicrous for the WCC Administration to insist that it needs more funding for operations when it is one of the best-funded community colleges in the state. Before the Board of Trustees goes down the “Other Revenues” rabbit hole, it should demand that the Administration focus intently on recruiting students among the demographic groups most likely to enroll in classes. Increasing enrollment will generate more revenue than attempting to build and operate a hotel will. Not only will that impact the tuition and fees revenues that WCC collects directly from its students, but it will also raise the state appropriation. In that respect, recruiting students is a 2-for-1.

On the other hand, diverting general fund revenues to repay debts on a hotel will not only reduce the available operating funds provided by country taxpayers, but it will also require the College to raise tuition, which will decrease enrollment. Decreased enrollment will also decrease the state appropriation.

The other action the Board should insist upon is the reduction in the size of the WCC administration. Every salary that’s added to the payroll takes away money from operations. If the Board considered each additional position (like other community college boards do), it would exercise better control over administrative bloat and its associated expense.

Recruiting students is clearly the best revenue-generation option for WCC. Unfortunately, the Board carelessly signs off on whatever nonsense the Administration presents it. That’s why the Washtenaw County taxpayer ends up holding the bag on foolishness like the Health and Fitness Center. Until the WCC Trustees look realistically at the costs and return on that “investment,” the HFC will continue to drain resources away from the College unabated.

It’s time the Trustees to put a stop to that.

Photo Credit: Linda Thomas-Fowler , via Flickr