Recently, WCC revealed its new, WCC Master Plan Update. If you look at it, you will see that the construction projects that made the Master Plan include:
- #1: Update Student Center to Center for Success
- #6: Washtenaw Technical Middle College
- #9: Mixed Use Development
- #19: Student Housing
The first item is a major overhaul of the Student Center Building. This will cost upwards of $26M. Much of the money in the budget is for neglect remediation. The State of Michigan has tentatively approved a cost share for this project, but WCC will pay most of the bill because the State of Michigan will not pay to correct conditions that arise from neglected maintenance.
Item #6 is a planned addition to the BE Building. The goal of the addition is to create administrative space for WTMC and to move the WTMC drop-off location. The WTMC drop-off location will be relocated because the Master Plan also calls for closing WCC’s main entry, which WTMC students use to access the campus. (Side note to the taxpayers: The College just spent $180,000 to rehab this space.)
Item #9 is mixed-use development. Exactly how will a hotel, convention center and retail space improve graduation rates? This is a dangerous item, but it fits in well with this Administration’s desire to generate additional revenue. This “high priority” item should raise red flags all over the place.
Item #19 is student housing. This is also intended to be money-maker, and it is the granddaddy of bad ideas. WCC wants to enter a “private development partnership” for this item. The Trustees need to move away from partnership models that allocate all the risk to WCC and all the reward to their private partners.
Have the Trustees given up on WCC’s mission?
None of these projects support the academic mission of the college. For the next 10 years, the Trustees and this Administration can see no need for additional academic space. Every construction project on this list either accommodates the administration or generates money. Very little on this list advances the mission of the College or helps Washtenaw County residents escape poverty.
And the Trustees will happily issue bonds to private investors and crank up student tuition and fees to pay for these projects. This will force some students to borrow more to attend. Other would-be students will seek out entry-level jobs instead. Statistically, few of these “would-be” students will ever attend college.
Shifting WCC’s debt burden to the students is especially injurious when the debt has nothing to do with WCC’s stated purpose. When the potential to generate revenue becomes the Trustees’ primary focus, the voters must ask themselves whether the Trustees have given up on WCC’s mission.
Photo Credit: Stuart Caie , via Flickr