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Washtenaw County residents still deserve Asset Protection policy

“Given our extensive investment in WCC, it is not too much to ask that the Trustees insist that the Chief Executive Officer maintain the facilities adequately and limit our liability.”

I wrote that on December 5, 2019, when I wrote about the need for an Asset Protection policy. Such a policy would require the College President to prioritize the maintenance of the college’s assets. After all, nothing really belongs to the College; everything belongs to the community that funds it. (If we’re going to pay outsiders extravagantly to run what we’ve built, we should at least have some assurance that those individuals take good care of it.)

Thirty-nine days after I wrote that, the Board of Trustees at Jackson College adopted an Asset Protection policy as part of a broader group of Executive Limitation policies. In other words, the Jackson College Trustees provide authentic oversight and place actual restrictions on the authority of the Jackson College president. The goal of the policy is simple: “The President shall not allow assets to be unprotected, inadequately maintained or unnecessarily risked.”

Jackson College’s Asset Protection policy addresses several major areas of concern. They include:

  • Adequacy of insurance coverage
  • Avoidance of liability
  • Contractual negligence
  • Adequacy of financial controls
  • Integrity in purchasing, avoiding non-competition and conflicts of interest
  • Protection of the College’s intellectual assets
  • Protection of the College’s public image, name, and identity
  • Prohibition on the operation of side businesses by the College

Asset Protection: Less is More in Jackson County

To be honest, it’s surprising that Jackson County voters get such a high level of respect from the Board of Trustees. Jackson College has the lowest millage rate of any Michigan community college and is the only Michigan community college that collects only its charter millage. The voters there have turned down 15 straight millage increase requests. And the Headlee Amendment means that the College’s 1964 1.33-mill authorization collected only 1.13 mills in 2021.

It’s not clear to me how or why voters there even authorized a community college in the first place. They have literally starved Jackson College to financial near-extinction. And yet, the Board of Trustees there has made protecting what little the community invests in Jackson College a condition of the President’s employment.

The cost of this “austerity” is that Jackson College’s in-district tuition rate is $176 per credit hour with hundreds of dollars in fees tacked on for good measure.

Nonetheless, it’s somewhat ironic that the Michigan community college that collects the least amount of money from its tax base gets the most respect from its Trustees.

It’s well beyond time for the WCC Board of Trustees to develop an Asset Protection policy. Unfortunately, it’s been years (decades, maybe?) since the WCC trustees have written their own Board policies.

Washtenaw County, whose voters are exceedingly generous to WCC, need and deserve better Trustees. We also deserve an Asset Protection policy.

Photo Credit: Jackson College , via Flickr