Someone recently suggested that if WCC somehow lost the millage, it would have to cut programs and raise tuition. I’m sorry, but I’m not buying it. For starters, this isn’t my first rodeo. Every voter knows that when an institution loses a millage, it asks again. Usually at the first available opportunity.
Second – and maybe more importantly – since when are “cutting instruction” and “raising tuition” the College’s only options? The WCC Administration claims that it needs more revenue, despite being one of the best-funded community colleges in the State. This isn’t surprising, given the administration’s penchant for borrowing and spending. Rather than poormouthing, the Administration could try cutting expenses to free up cash.
Instructional expenses constitute 42% of WCC’s budget. How about making some cuts to the other 58%? “Cutting administration” and “delaying construction on the ATC” come to mind as two solid ways of cutting expenses. If “cutting instruction” and “raising tuition” were the reaction by this administration following a millage loss at the polls, it would merely reinforce what I’ve been saying all along: this Administration places its own twisted priorities squarely ahead of the students, the faculty and the community.
Cutting expenses is never an option
Hypothetically, suppose that Washtenaw County wakes up on March 11 to the news that the voters have rejected WCC’s millage request. A prudent administration would immediately pump the brakes on the “Advanced Transportation Center” and institute a hiring freeze. After all, why add pressure to the General Fund when the voters are rethinking their support for the College?
Instead, this administration threatens to cut instruction and raise tuition. After all, the Administration’s real priority is building the “Advanced Transportation Center.” There’s no reason that losing a millage should affect that, right? Teaching students and equipping people with meaningful careers can wait. WCC shouldn’t be focusing on lowering the above-average poverty rate in Washtenaw County. And the babies! What about the babies?
In reality, Washtenaw County is looking at a 10% increase in the school-age population in the next two decades. This administration’s brilliant response is to beef up the College’s non-credit offerings and recreate the Job Skills and Campus Events Building?
At this point, voters should be asking two questions about the “Advanced Transportation Center”: First, what is the annual net revenue from WCC’s non-credit classes? (Hint: It is not a significant source of income for WCC and never has been.)
According to VP Michelle Mueller at the November 19, 2019 Board Retreat, the nine non-credit classes she’s developed so far for the “Advanced Transportation Center” are all online.
So the second question has to be: are we really going to borrow $6M+ over 20 years for a building to support non-credit online classes?
Photo Credit: Charles Edward Miller, via Flickr.com