The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) keeps all kinds of demographic data about Southeast Michigan. You can consult SEMCOG on everything from taxation to car crash rates in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, St. Clair, Livingston and Washtenaw counties. SEMCOG also keeps population data.
SEMCOG has been warning about the coming “baby bust.” The birth rate in Southeast Michigan is dropping, as it has been for about 10 years. According to the SEMCOG data, the decline will continue for at least the next ten years.
The decline is important because it poses a major financial challenge for K-12 school districts in Southeastern Michigan. School funding is tied almost exclusively to the number of students in the district. More students mean more money. Fewer students mean less money.
A decline in school age children will eventually morph into a decline in the number of young adults. This has implications for colleges and universities. Fewer young adults mean a decline in enrollment. Once the Baby Bust works its way through the K-12 school districts, it will begin to impact college and university enrollments.
How the Baby Bust will affect WCC
If you listen to WCC President Rose Bellanca, she clearly uses the decline in birth rates in the area to justify the need for new revenue streams. Right now, the new revenue stream she’s most interested in justifying is a hotel and convention center.
The problem with this whole storyline can be summed up in one word: except. According to SEMCOG’s population predictions, the entire Southeast Michigan region will see this population decline.
Except Washtenaw County.
SEMCOG predicts that Washtenaw County’s school-age population will increase by slightly more than 10%. If the school age population increases in Washtenaw County, the college-age population will also increase.
For Washtenaw County – and WCC – the Baby Bust will be a bust. With a 10% increase in the school-age population, WCC actually stands to gain enrollment while everyone else’s numbers are declining. It calls into question the need for any new revenue streams at WCC. It also puts WCC’s justification for building a hotel and conference center on incredibly shaky ground.
This news should be very troubling to Washtenaw County taxpayers. The WCC administration and the Board of Trustees plan to co-opt the misfortunate narrative of other communities in Southeast Michigan. They will dishonestly apply the predictions for the collective seven-county area to Washtenaw County. They will force Washtenaw County taxpayers to take on very real debt to address a problem we will not have.
Throughout Southeast Michigan, the school- age population will decline. It will negatively affect almost every county in Southeast Michigan.
Except Washtenaw County.
Photo Credit: ellmo, via Flickr.com