Academic Influence released its first-ever ranking of US community colleges, and WCC ranked near the bottom of community colleges in Michigan. Personally, I don’t put a lot of stock into ranking lists. At the end of the day, rankings are mostly subjective no matter what goes into the analysis.
Academic Influence claims that its rankings are objective, but when you read what goes into its ranking algorithm, it’s not really set up to rank community colleges based on their strengths. The machine-learning algorithm uses “scholarly and academic citations… periodicals, journals and global media outlets.”
It also evaluates references to people associated with each institution and their achievements to develop a measure of the institution’s overall influence. It also looks at web traffic, datasets that track performance statistics, graduation rates, costs, enrollments and other common metrics. The goal is to determine how “influential” an institution is.
Few of these metrics matter much for a community college, whose primary influence is in its own community. And community colleges, including WCC, can have a great deal of influence over the people they serve.
On paper, most community colleges aren’t successful. Many of their programs are expensive to operate, and they typically have low graduation rates. Their admissions process is non-competitive. Many of their credit classes don’t transfer to higher-level institutions. Ultimately, a community college is successful if it provides students with the opportunity to get themselves to a better place. That might be a university. Or a better-paying job. Or a new skill set. WCC does all of that.
Trustees compromise WCC influence on community
Where WCC fails its students is in the hands-off approach the Board of Trustees has adopted. The taxpayers, who provide the majority of WCC’s revenue, elect Trustees to represent their ownership stake in the College. Instead, WCC’s Board prefers to oversee trivial issues, while allowing major issues to slip. That’s why – in the middle of a “rich community” – WCC has dilapidated buildings, then borrows millions to build more. It is why the administration has grown unchecked while student enrollment declined.
It’s why the WCC Board of Trustees signs off on multi-million dollar no-bid contracts, then raises tuition to cover deficits. And why they double down on bad money-making ventures, even when it means taking operating dollars away from students.
These lousy, careless decisions will have far more influence on students and on the community than anything else. And they will undoubtedly diminish WCC’s ability to positively influence future students.
Photo Credit: Amy