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WCC offers no solutions for Washtenaw County problems

Yesterday, I wrote about the growing gap between median rent and median income in our area. The vast difference has an impact on people who struggle to make ends meet in Washtenaw County. While education is a pathway to a better life, the cost of housing here forecloses that possibility for those who might benefit the most from it. When you cannot take time from work to sit in a classroom because the rent is due, the likelihood that you can change your income diminishes substantially.

I have also written about the disconnection between the WCC administration and the people of Washtenaw County. Most of the executives at WCC are not Washtenaw County residents. By itself, that’s a problem. The expectation of every homeowner and business owner in Washtenaw County is that we will invest in WCC. And invest we do. This year, we will send more than $70M in tax dollars to WCC. To put that in perspective, WCC’s annual property tax collection – which accounts for less than 55% of its total budget – exceeds the general fund budgets of 17 of Michigan’s 28 community colleges. We invest heavily in our community college and by extension, its executives; yet, they have no investment in Washtenaw County.

Given the large institutional budget, it’s not hard to see why the executives (and the Board of Trustees for that matter) spent hundreds of hours drawing up a “Master Plan” that calls for the construction of a hotel and convention center and cosmetic “improvements” to the campus.

The Board of Trustees authorized the construction and operation of a health and fitness center that had no connection whatsoever to WCC students. Today, WCC offers one half-credit fitness class so WCC can partially fund the Fitness Center’s operation with students’ federal financial aid dollars.

Washtenaw County needs WCC to tune in

While this is going on, residents of Washtenaw County cannot find places to live. Those places that are available are astronomically expensive in comparison to residents’ incomes. These residentsmight be able to go back to school to increase their incomes, but WCC has gone all-in on programs that prepare people for low-wage work. The data that WCC reports to the US Department of Education show that the average WCC graduate won’t even earn a living wage in Washtenaw County ten years after first enrolling.

At the same time, these executives can neither figure out why their classrooms are empty nor come up with strategies to address this. However, they seem to have no shortage of ideas on how to divert the money we so generously provide to their own non-academic priorities.

Photo Credit: F Delventhal , via Flickr