According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center data, Michigan community colleges welcomed more than 21,600 students last fall. Michigan’s free college programs drove enrollment in the state’s two-year schools. That is an average of more than 770 students per college. Grand Rapids Community College reported its enrollment rose by 4.4%. Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s enrollment increased by almost half.
The program, whose goal is to increase the number of adults with college credits, has clearly worked. Except that it didn’t work for Washtenaw Community College. Fall enrollment declined by more than 2% and credit hours declined by 3.5%, according to WCC. The enrollment picture did not improve for WCC in the winter. Enrollment this semester declined by 3.9% and credit hours declined by 4.2%. That means WCC enrolled fewer students, who took fewer courses in both the fall and winter semesters.
At a time when Michigan’s community college enrollment increased by more than 19%, WCC’s enrollment declined. When the State of Michigan offered free college tuition, WCC got nothing.
Nothing at all.
Normally, this would be where the Board of Trustees would step in and start asking questions. Questions like, “If community college enrollment has increased by nearly 20% because of these free college programs, why is WCC’s enrollment down?” Or, “If other community colleges saw significant increases in their enrollment, why didn’t that happen here?” Or maybe, “What effort did we make to get eligible in-district students into our programs?”
That’s not WCC’s Board. This is perfectly acceptable to them.
Free college can’t draw students to WCC
The state’s two free college programs were slow, fat pitches over home plate. Washtenaw Community College either completely wasted its opportunities to increase enrollment, or it wasn’t prepared to offer programs of interest/value to qualified students.
It was prepared to use federal COVID-19 relief funds to cover up the Health and Fitness Center’s gouging financial losses. How many programs could those funds have developed? How many classrooms could have been improved with $4M? What were the other beneficial community investments our Trustees forfeited to fix the financial assault the HFC perpetrated on the college’s books?
At a time when the State is offering free college to anyone who qualifies, WCC could not increase its enrollment by even one student.
Think about that.
Exactly what value do our 13 Vice Presidents bring to the table in this situation? It’s bad enough to allow the enrollment to slip once, but twice? In an environment where the State of Michigan is passing out free tuition like it’s candy on Halloween? Where is the accountability for that?
Washtenaw County taxpayers deserve much, much better than this.
Photo Credit: el Neato , via Flickr