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WCC Children’s Center use may not represent student choice

In her presentation to the WCC Board of Trustees, Executive Vice President Linda Blakey said several times that student choice drove the drop in usage of the WCC Children’s Center. That statement could be true, but I would like to offer an alternate explanation for the drop in usage at the WCC Children’s Center.

The WCC Children’s Center provides the most benefit to low-income students. One indicator of household income is Pell Grant eligibility. According to data collected by the US Department of Education, in 2012-13 WCC enrolled 5,660 students who received Pell Grants. In 2013-14 that number dropped to 5,267. In 2014-15, the number of Pell Grant recipients at WCC was 4,742. For the 2015-16 academic year, WCC enrolled 4,508 Pell Grant recipients. In 2016-17, WCC enrolled 4,451 students who received Pell Grants. For the 2017-18 academic year, WCC enrolled 3,750 Pell Grant recipients. For the 2018-19 academic year, WCC enrolled 3,375 Pell Grant students.

Over the course of 7 academic years, the number of WCC students who received Pell Grants dropped by more than 40%. The enrollment during that time remained relatively constant, and Washtenaw County’s poverty rate ranged between 13%-14%. Either the number of low-income students enrolling at WCC declined dramatically, or Pell-eligible students began rejecting grant aid in large numbers.

At a time when WCC’s annual enrollment and the poverty rate in Washtenaw County stayed constant, poor students disappeared from campus. The students did not choose to stop using the WCC Children’s Center, as Linda Blakey has suggested. They chose to stop enrolling at WCC.

Think about that.

WCC Children’s Center enrollment is a symptom of a bigger problem

Pell Grant recipients disappeared from WCC’s campus in large numbers, and no one in the Administration noticed. Or if they did, they did nothing about it. And when they did notice the impact – in the form of declining Children’s Center enrollment – their response was to close the WCC Children’s Center.

People are not poor by choice. Sometimes, they do not become parents by choice. But going to college is a choice. And when the poor do not think they can afford college (even community college), they choose not to enroll. Based on the number of FAFSA applications from low-income students, many may not even know that this aid is available to them. And if they did not enroll, they would not have known that low-cost childcare was available on campus.

It is easy to say that students choose not to use the WCC Children’s Center. But that may be part of a broader decision not to enroll at all.

So, what do you call someone who never enrolled at WCC?

Photo Credit: Alison Elizabeth X , via Flickr