Press "Enter" to skip to content

The value of a college education in Washtenaw County

New data from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce provides a fresh look at the value of a college education. The CEW ranked more than 4,500 US higher education institutions on factors like graduation rate, cost, debt, and graduate earnings after 10 years. It also compiled the data into a searchable table to allow users to compare the relative value of a range of institutions.

In certain areas, Washtenaw Community College ranks well, while in others, not so much. For example, WCC is among the institutions with the lowest annual cost of attendance. At a tuition rate of $105 per credit hour (including the “technology fee”), WCC is a bargain. Helping that is the fact that the most common credential it issues is a <1-year certificate. Most graduates can complete a WCC credential in one year or less. Unfortunately, WCC's love affair with certificates makes it hard to compare it to other community colleges in Michigan. Most still issue associate degrees as their primary credential, which is kind of what you might expect from a community college.

A college education should benefit all graduates

The funding that Washtenaw County taxpayers provide for WCC goes beyond generous. Over the last 10 years (FY2013-FY2022), WCC has collected $523M in property tax revenues. Ten years after graduation, 42% of WCC graduates do not earn more than someone with only a high school diploma. More than four out of ten WCC graduates reaped no discernible economic benefit from completing their college education at WCC.

WCC’s administration got half a billion dollars. 42% of its graduates got nothing.

Instead of investing in its academic programs and facilities, the WCC administration invests in more administrators. (I am still looking for a two-year college in the US that has more Vice Presidents than WCC.) Rather than investing in its faculty and student services, the WCC administration throws money away on a quasi-private health club that incinerated $4.5M in cash last year alone.

The new Grand Plan is to build a hotel and convention center replete with “retail outlots” instead of focusing on the mission.

According to the Georgetown data, 10 years after graduation, the median income for a WCC graduate is $35,700 ($17.16/hr.). The Pew Research Center defines the middle class as those earning between two-thirds of and double the median US household income. Using 2021 median household income data from the US Census Bureau, middle class households earn between $53,300 and $160,000.

A decade after completing a college education at WCC, the median-earning alumnus still has not cracked the middle class and probably never will. If that does not seem right, it is not. Communally, we invest heavily in our community college. The people who pay for WCC and the students who seek a college education there deserve much better.

Photo Credit: Ricardo Diaz , via Flickr