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What WCC’s HEERF money was intended for

In the last few days, I’ve written about the WCC Administration’s use of federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF money) to eliminate debts accrued by the Health and Fitness Center. It’s important to know what the Feds intended these funds for, so you can see how egregious this decision is.

Keep in mind that WCC received about $37M in HEERF money from the federal government. For reference, that’s about one-third of WCC’s entire annual budget.

Overall, HEERF was meant to…

  • Support students’ ability to meet basic needs
  • Mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic on students’ educational attainment
  • Support for staffing, teaching, student support services, and educational programs/courses
  • Target resources to students with greatest need
  • Support campus safety measures and protocols

This information comes from the Department of Education, by the way. (I can’t seem to find “rescuing a flailing health club” under any of these goals.)

The program goals focus intently on the studentss. The guidance by the Department of Education does recognize that institutions may have lost revenue – and lots of it. But the primary goal of the program is to help students.

HEERF money is student focused

Undoubtedly, the pandemic has cost WCC a lot of money. Lost enrollment means lost revenue. Closing the campus means not earning expected revenues from the summer trades programs; events at Morris Lawrence; non-credit classes; rent from spaces in SC; etc. For the most part, WCC hasn’t claimed those as lost revenue.

But recovering lost revenue from the Health and Fitness Center is somehow a priority. As an operation, the Health and Fitness Center isn’t student focused. In fact, WCC did not originally intend to pernit any student use. It’s not an integral part of the campus. That’s why WCC built it on the other side of Huron River Drive. And if you believe the financial statements, it accounts for only about 1.5% of WCC’s total budget. It’s simply not a primary income generator.

There are lots of good things this HEERF money could be doing for both the campus and its students. Backfilling holes the budget caused by the administration’s failure to recognize and insure against serious financial risk is not among them. Using the HEER money to pay for these clownish mistakes forecloses on real opportunities for growth.

The taxpayers of Washtenaw County (and the United States) deserve better than what we’ve gotten from WCC’s administration and its Board of Trustees. We cannot continue to support Trustees who blindly support of projects like the Health and Fitness Center. Their failure to provide authentic oversight puts the community at an unacceptable financial risk. (The pandemic is demonstrating that right now.) They’ve done nothing to guard our interests in WCC. Instead, the Trustees have merely left us “holding the bag” on their mismanagement.

Photo Credit: Marco Verch , via Flickr