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What a high school graduate should know about WCC

Yesterday, I wrote about a massive dataset published by Third Way that compares the earnings of a post-secondary graduate from virtually any US institution to that of the average high school graduate. By also considering the cost of the credential, the data show the value (in dollars) of the institution’s degree. The site performs a quick calculation of how long it takes for graduates to recover their investment in a degree.

So, I pulled the data for all Michigan public community colleges. The results are interesting, to say the least. Washtenaw Community College offers the lowest price per credit hour. However, that bottom-line strategy returns only a middling value to the graduate.

A WCC credential (which is a certificate more often than not), generates about $6,700 in additional annual earnings. That ranks 16th among Michigan’s 28 public community colleges. The cost to acquire the credential and the earnings over 10 years shows why WCC’s value strategy is so problematic. (Click on the charts to enlarge them.)

Average annual earnings for a community college credential
The average earnings increase a Michigan community college credential produces

Over a 10-year period, a Washtenaw Community College graduate can expect to net $62,725 in earnings over and above the average high school graduate with no post-secondary degree. That ranks 14th among Michigan’s community colleges.

10-year earnings from a Michigan community college degree
Comparison of 10-year total value of a community college credential.

A Washtenaw County high school graduate is better off at Schoolcraft

According to the data, Schoolcraft College returns the best overall value to the student, in terms of economic advancement over 10 years. Its combination of earnings over cost means that a Schoolcraft degree pays for itself in less than a year. To be fair, so does a degree from WCC. However, the Schoolcraft credential returns $1.50 in additional earnings for every $1 a credential from Washtenaw Community College does.

Schoolcraft College isn’t the only top-value community college in Southeast Michigan, either. In terms of 10-year returns, a credential from Monroe County Community College will generate 37% more income for the graduate, and a credential from Macomb Community College will generate 34% more income. Henry Ford College and Lansing Community College credentials each generate 31% more income for the graduate.

In short, WCC is surrounded by other community colleges that produce a better long-term benefit for students. Unfortunately, certain Trustees believe that WCC is somehow “comparable” to the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University. For what it’s worth, a four-year credential from the University of Michigan generates $5.58 in additional earnings for every $1 a WCC degree produces. A degree from EMU generates $1.78 for every $1 a WCC degree nets. Not exactly “comparable.”

Washtenaw County needs Trustees who are invested in improving WCC

The WCC Administration’s policy of promoting certificates over associate degrees comes at a significant cost to this community. It diminishes substantial investment in WCC and its students. I suspect this strategy has more to do with gaming the state appropriation formula than it does with providing Washtenaw County residents with gainful employment opportunities. It’s also likely a product of the fact that the majority of WCC’s highest-paid administrators do not even live in Washtenaw County.

Washtenaw County taxpayers have invested far too much into WCC to settle for (or even tolerate) this crap. We don’t need executives with no community ties who pursue expedient, short-term funding solutions at the long-term expense of students.

And we don’t need Trustees who blindly support the carpet baggers they’ve installed as “change agents.” We don’t need this kind of change. We need trustees who represent our interests and promote the economic well-being of those whom WCC was intended to serve. Only when we have them will this kind of bullshit stop.

Photo Credit: C Monster , via Flickr