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Passing the torch

Unseated Freeman puts trust in trustee elects

By Natalie Wright

Editor

Although only 57 votes separated Mark Freeman from a second term as Washtenaw Community College trustee, he has no plan to call for a recount of the 119,498 votes cast.

He didn’t even consider it, said Freeman, who lost out to David DeVarti in Tuesday’s election by .03 percent of the vote.

“To me, it sounds like Dave DeVarti is a really great guy, so it would be a shame to do something like that,” Freeman said.

And he sees a bright future for the three new trustees who will serve on the board beginning in January.

DeVarti, a student at WCC and a self-proclaimed “life-long learner” is joined by fellow student Christina Fleming, who also served as online editor of The Washtenaw Voice until her election, and Ruth Hatcher, a former WCC English instructor, faculty union president and interim vice president of instruction.

Freeman, who also took classes at WCC during his time as a trustee, said that from his experience, the board values having students among its ranks.

“I think one thing that will be good is that I found right away that people were very accepting of me when I got on the board,” Freeman said, “and they really liked having a student’s perspective.

“I think it gives you a different perspective, because you’re going to see things that no one else on the board gets exposed to.”

He is also excited to see how Hatcher will bring the faculty’s voice to the board, he said.

“We’re going to have a teacher’s perspective too, which is something that I’ve wanted to see on there,” he said. “With some of the conflicts we’ve had, or the tension that’s there, I think it’s going to help.

“I was really glad to see this mix, even if it meant that I got beat,” Freeman said. “I really feel like I lost to three good people.”

Hatcher, too, feels that those elected to sit beside her on the board are great people for the job, she said. DeVarti has a lot of experience and is just a “really good guy,” she said, and she is excited about Fleming’s knowledge of technology, which is “quite current and useful” among a board of “old farts.”

Fleming agreed that she is happy with voters’ selections and looks forward to working with her fellow trustee-elects.

Fleming and Hatcher both expressed an urgency in dealing with some of the most pressing issues at the college including a perceived lack of transparency and animosity between the administration and the faculty. DeVarti was not immediately available for comment, although he addressed those same issues as priorities throughout his campaign.

Hatcher, who took the lead in the race with 38,595 votes, said her first priority is to address the number of consultants the college has been hiring, a point of concern the faculty union raised in its vote of no confidence in President Rose Bellanca’s leadership last May.

She also wants to begin to fix the transparency issues by putting an end to the number of Freedom of Information Act requests the school receives.

“It’s ridiculous for anyone in Washtenaw County to have to FOIA information from the community college,” she said, adding that there are a few exceptions, such as personnel matters. “But any financial thing should be out there in the first place, online, and if it’s not there it should be given as soon as anyone asks for it.”

Hatcher said she’s unsure of how exactly she will proceed with these actions as a trustee, but she plans to discuss them at meetings and charge the president with fixing the problems she sees.

Although all three candidates ran on platforms of change on the board, amid long-standing controversy between the faculty and administration, and increased accountability to the faculty, students and community, board Chair Stephen Gill and President Rose Bellanca said they are happy to hear the new perspectives.

“We will welcome the newly elected WCC board of trustee members and I look forward to working with them,” Gill said in an email sent through a college spokeswoman. “It’s always good to get new input and have new voices and new thoughts.”

“We look forward to working collaboratively with them as this is an exciting time to be part of the board of trustees and an exciting time for the college,” Bellanca said in the same email. “The college has benefitted from exceptional board leadership throughout its history and the newly elected board members will help carry on that tradition.”

Fleming, who took second place in the election with 30,789 votes, said that while there are issues that need to be addressed right away, she’s also thinking about the big picture of her six-year term.

“There are always immediate, hot-button stuff, like where do you stand on the faculty-administration conflict, but when all of that is swept to the side, who are you after that? What do you bring to the table after that garbage is gone?” she asked of herself. “Because we will get past that.”

And Fleming’s reasons for running for the board echo those of another student-trustee who is on his way out.

“When I first ran, I wanted to show people that they could do it,” Freeman said, adding that he spent only $200 in his first campaign.

“I wanted to get involved because I wanted to show people how they could get involved, too,” Fleming said at a trustee forum on WCC’s campus in October. Fleming said that she spent less than $300 on her campaign.

“I didn’t buy signs, I didn’t buy flyers or mailers; I didn’t spend money,” Fleming said. “I just was myself. This is who I am, take it or leave it, vote for me or don’t.”

“It just showed that if you’re determined and you get out there and you really canvass and you talk to a lot of people, it’s quite possible,” Freeman said of his first campaign. “I don’t want people to doubt themselves. If they want to get involved with their school, then they should, and it is doable.”

Additional reporting by Managing Editor James Saoud

Photo department to offer alternative opportunity

By EJ STOUT
Managing Editor

A new photography display has taken up residence on the ground floor of the GM building. A closer look reveals unusual processes and tools used in each of the student works, which were created in Washtenaw’s Alternative Processes photography course.

The course uses unique methods – both historical and contemporary – to explore a wide range of photographic possibilities. It is intended to expand skills in fine art and commercial photography, yet can apply to many creative fields.

The photography department is reintroducing the course through a series of presentations to be held on Wednesdays from noon-1 p.m. and again from 5-6 p.m. through Nov. 19.

 

ALTERNATIVE PROCESSES: A series of presentations

 

WHEN: Wednesdays through Nov. 19

TIME: noon-1 p.m. and 5-6 p.m.

WHERE: GM 017

COST: Sessions are free with refreshments provided

 

COURSE: PHO 210

CRN: 12465

NOTE: Registration for the Winter 2015 semester begins on Nov. 12.

Two students and a teacher elected to the WCC board of trustees

By Natalie Wright
Editor

Two students have been elected to fill open seats on the Washtenaw Community College board of trustees, one of them beating out incumbent Mark Freeman by 57 votes.

Former WCC faculty union president Ruth Hatcher, 66, of Ann Arbor, easily took the third seat, coming in first place with 22.38 percent of the vote. WCC student and Voice online editor Christina Fleming, 38, of Dexter, took second place with 17.85 percent of the vote. And WCC student David DeVarti, 62, of Ann Arbor beat out Freeman for third place, with 11.58 percent.

Freeman was the only incumbent running for the three seats. Trustees Patrick McLean and Anne Williams chose not to run for reelection.

Full results are as follows:

Ruth Hatcher 38,595 votes, 22.38 percent

Christina Fleming 30,789 votes, 17.85 percent

David DeVarti 19,973 votes, 11.58 percent

Mark Freeman 19,916 votes, 11.55 percent

William Campbell 19,083 votes, 11.07 percent

Alex Milshteyn 18,863 votes, 10.94 percent

Tony Derezinski 14,942 votes, 8.66 percent

Eric Borregard 9,140 votes, 5.3 percent

Although all three candidates ran on platforms of change on the board, amid long-standing controversy between the faculty and administration, and increased accountability to the faculty, students and community, board Chair Stephen Gill says he is happy to have them.

“We will welcome the newly elected WCC board of trustee members and I look forward to working with them,” Gill said in an email sent through a college spokeswoman. “It’s always good to get new input and have new voices and new thoughts.”

WCC President Rose Bellanca echoed Gill’s sentiments.

“We look forward to working collaboratively with them as this is an exciting time to be part of the board of trustees and an exciting time for the college,” Bellanca said in the same email. “The college has benefitted from exceptional board leadership throughout its history and the newly elected board members will help carry on that tradition as we continue our efforts to move the college forward.”

EJ Stout | Washtenaw Voice

Ruth Hatcher. EJ Stout | Washtenaw Voice

EJ Stout | Washtenaw Voice

Christina Fleming. EJ Stout | Washtenaw Voice

EJ Stout | Washtenaw Voice

Dave DeVarti. EJ Stout | Washtenaw Voice

WCC trustees extend President Rose Bellanca’s contract, award her a raise

By TAYLOR ROBINSON
Staff Writer

and PAULETTE PARKER
Staff Writer

ROSE-BELLANCA-WATERCOOLER-WEB

Dr. Rose Bellanca, President of WCC

The Washtenaw Community College board of trustees voted unanimously to extend President Rose Bellanca’s contract for another year at Tuesday’s meeting. Bellanca’s contract is now set to expire on June 30, 2017. The trustees also awarded Bellanca a $4,122 raise, setting her salary at $207,000.

“I’m very pleased to be able to do this,” said board Chair Stephen Gill. “I’m very supportive, and as we’ve heard, there are a lot of good things happening at the college. There was a lot of discussion behind this, and I’m glad we’ve gotten to this point.”

None of that discussion, however, took place at the public meeting. Gill was the only trustee to address the action before the vote.

The other trustees were brief in their words of support after the meeting.

“I’m absolutely supportive,” board Treasurer Pam Horiszny told a Voice reporter. “The overall accomplishments are way beyond our expectations.”

“I thought it was a reasonable contract, and I thought it was something I could support,” said board Secretary Mark Freeman, who is running for reelection in November.

“It has been a great opportunity working with you,” Bellanca said to the board. “You have truly given me a lot of advice and a lot of encouragement. I want you to know your advice has always been well-taken, even though sometimes it didn’t look like it.”

Faculty union President Maryam Barrie was vocal about the union’s disapproval, mentioning in her preemptive speech that for the first time she did not receive a meeting agenda beforehand.

“One of my colleagues at lunch told me today that even if I spit gold nickels out of my mouth, while standing on my head, I could not say anything you would hear,” Barrie said to the board. “Whether or not that is so, I do know that an overwhelming amount of the faculty here at WCC voted a resounding ‘no confidence’ in Dr. Bellanca’s leadership, not six months ago.

“Faculty are no more involved in the governance of this institution now than we were then. Your actions tonight make it clear your response to the faculty’s concerns,” Barrie said.

It’s difficult to work for an institution that prides itself on the professionalism of its staff,” Barrie added after the meeting. “It’s disheartening at times.”

Trustee candidates Ruth Hatcher and Alex Milshteyn both attended the meeting and had very different perspectives on the extension.

“As I was not part of the decision and I have no background information, I really cannot comment on that,” Milshteyn said, adding, “the board supports its president.”

Hatcher, a former WCC English instructor, faculty union president and interim vice president of instruction, was not so timid.

“The board doesn’t give a shit about the faculty,” Hatcher said. “They don’t care about us.”


Additional reporting by Contributor Lori Tackett and Editor Natalie Wright

Help from WCC Foundation was ‘life-saving’ moment for grateful alum

By VIVIAN ZAGO
Staff Writer

WOMAN-WEBAna Barge is living proof that opportunities provided through the Washtenaw Community College Foundation can change lives – and save lives.

Barge was approaching mid-life when she put her troubled marriage behind her and returned to WCC to restart her college education – thanks to a huge assist from the foundation. She recalled her experiences recently in an address at the 18th Annual WCC Foundation Women’s Council Luncheon.

 “It was the scariest thing to me, going back to school,” said Barge. “All the technology … I was used to using the computer only to check emails.”

But, not only did she survive, she thrived.

She transferred to Eastern Michigan University, where she graduated with honors in 2013, and got her bachelor’s degree in fiber arts. She also participated in a collaborative study with the University of Michigan for Warmilu LLC, helping to create a blanket widely used to keep infants warm and, ultimately, reduce the infant mortality rate.

“Somehow, Ana was recruited to help the company to identify this high-tech blanket they are using across the world, saving lives,” said Donna Doleman, chair of the Women’s Council who works at SPARK, an economic development company that supports high-tech and innovative business in the region. One of those companies is Warmilu.

But it all started at Washtenaw, Barge told the May gathering that raised $50,000 to help more students like her.

“The foundation of everything, for me,” Barge said, “was WCC.”

She told how she married in 1992, when she was 25. Two years later, she had the first of her three children. In 1999, she started to study at WCC, but had to drop out.

“My marriage was struggling. I already had one child, had miscarried a baby, got pregnant again, and I had to drop out of school,” Barge said. “I could not balance the kids and the husband with school.”

After overcoming some very difficult times, she finally returned to WCC.

“It took me one year, and I was able to get the MACRAO transfer to Eastern Michigan University and also an associate degree in general studies,” Barge said. In 2010, she got another associate degree in applied science and a certificate in liberal arts.

Students like Barge are why the foundation’s Women’s Council exists.

“The mission is to keep the resources growing and available to students who have the will and the desire to be there, for a proper education,” Doleman said, explaining that, since 1997, the program has raised funds to create an endowed scholarship for women based on leadership and academic excellence. “We can really see the meaningfulness of what we do at the council, because those, like Ana, are the people who can make a difference.

“It was really nice to see how a student who hit that bump in the road had created this technology that had never been created before, to save babies’ lives, and she was a WCC student.”

Barge is now an account representative at CORT, a furniture company. While she can testify that it wasn’t easy, she also knows the only one who could really change her life was her.

She just needed a little help. And it came from the foundation.

“I am a stronger woman,” she said, “and I am like that because somewhere someone believed in me.”

Faculty union reaches out for help, puts college’s accreditation on the line

By NATALIE WRIGHT
Editor

Members of Washtenaw Community College’s faculty union brought more than a year of strife with the college’s administration to a head earlier this month, reaching out to a third party to intervene in what the faculty called a “crisis” at the college.

On June 16, the union’s leadership sent a letter and package of evidence of their concerns to the Higher Learning Commission, WCC’s accrediting body.

The faculty released the letter to the public, but withheld the attached documents, fearing that releasing them may jeopardize the HLC’s investigation, Faculty Union President Maryam Barrie said.

The letter, written by more than 20 faculty members, alleged that the college’s administration under President Rose Bellanca’s leadership and board of trustees have violated the HLC’s criteria for accreditation, as well as the college’s stated mission and the board’s own policies.

During the May 27 meeting of the board of trustees, several board members, along with WCC President Rose Bellanca, endorsed the idea of bringing in the HLC or another third party, but have since distanced themselves from the decision.

The letter stated that the faculty’s desired outcome is to “hold the WCC board of trustees accountable” to address their concerns and to “ensure that the college is under capable leadership.”

The faculty highlighted three major points of concern in the letter: a loss of institutional leadership and knowledge, an absence of joint governance and the dismantling of the academic structure and processes.

Loss of institutional leadership

A significant loss of personnel has led to a depletion of institutional leadership and knowledge at the school, the faculty wrote.
“Many administrators and support staff have been demoted, involuntarily transferred, forced to retire or resign or been fired during President Bellanca’s time at the college,” the letter read. “The departure of several key personnel from the administration has caused a severe loss of institutional knowledge that is crippling the effectiveness of the college.”
The faculty cited the interim status and uncertain future of the Vice President of Instruction position since Stuart Blacklaw was fired in March 2013, and four out of five recently vacated academic dean positions, which have been filled with interim deans. There also doesn’t appear to be a plan to replace the dean of Distance Learning, they wrote.
This loss of leadership hinders the faculty’s ability to work affectively and take part in decisions regarding curriculum, Kelley Gottschang, chair of the Curriculum Committee, wrote in a separate letter to the board of trustees, also dated June 16.

“All of this creates a vacuum in the academic chain of command,” Gottschang wrote, “resulting in a culture of non-academic administrators creating, running, scheduling and supervising credit-based courses and programs.”

Absence of joint governance

While the academic chain of command has been depleted, the administration has grown, and an increase in top-down decision-making and communication has led to a decrease in faculty involvement, the letter said.

The faculty noted that in Bellanca’s three years, the college has gone from having two executive vice presidents to eight, and there has been a “corresponding increase in unilateral decision making.”

One example cited in the letter is a $2.9 million Department of Labor grant, which was awarded to the college in 2012. The college sought and received the IGNITE grant without the support or involvement of the academic deans and faculty involved, the letter said.

“In that grant, the college promised deliverables without so much as consulting the concerned faculty as to whether or not these deliverables could be delivered,” David Fitzpatrick, chief negotiator for the union, said. “Then when the grant was awarded, it was still several months before the faculty who would be responsible for development was informed of the grant’s details.”

Also cited was a plan for a new $12.5 million Center for Advanced Manufacturing, which the faculty said they first learned about when Bellanca met with department chairs recently. In this meeting, Bellanca told faculty to “get on board or get out of the way,” the letter said.

At a recent board of trustees meeting, Bellanca denied that she made that comment and suggested that the involved faculty must have misunderstood her.

A lack of communication regarding the budget for fiscal year 2014-2015 was also cited in the faculty’s letter. When the letter was written on June 16, two weeks before the start of the fiscal year, the faculty had not received the departmental budgets.

“No one at lower levels of the college knows what their operating budget will be two weeks from now,” the letter said. In the past, department chairs would have had the budget in hand by mid-May, Barrie said.

The budget was approved on June 24, and departmental budgets were sent out later that week.

These examples show that “important decisions and initiatives are frequently communicated as announcements,” the letter said. “The result is that the college is unsettled, unaware and uninformed.”

“Systematic dismantling” of academic structure

The faculty’s last point suggested that the loss of institutional leadership and knowledge was an intentional move by Bellanca to compromise the academic chain of command and take decision-making power out of the hands of academic personnel.

“Increasingly, non-academic vice presidents are moving forward with credit courses, credit programs and agreements involving outside parties,” the letter said. “Our academic chain of command has been isolated, ignored and shifted into perpetual interim status, which puts us in a holding pattern and disempowers the faculty.”

“This is top-down curricular development at best and a complete disregard for the academic process at worst,” Gottschang wrote.

The faculty’s letter cited a recent foreign language initiative with Ypsilanti Community High Schools as an example. The administration had been working on this initiative for almost a year before faculty were notified, Barrie said.
Michelle Garey, chair of the foreign language department, said that when she was notified of the initiative, it was not through the academic chain of command.

“I was asked to participate in this initiative not by my dean nor by the Vice President of Instruction – neither of whom appeared to have any awareness or understanding of this initiative – but by the Vice President of Student Affairs,” Garey said at the May 27 meeting.

Garey was asked to create nontransferable high school courses, she said, that would be available to high school freshman and sophomores and would not count for any type of college credit.

Ypsilanti High School faculty were also in the middle of contract negotiations at the time, Garey said, and were trying to prevent the outsourcing of their jobs.

“And, according to their union president, were completely unaware that an agreement with WCC was already in place,” she said.

“Our recent vote of no confidence … was described as an ‘unfortunate distraction,’” Garey said. “I think an unfortunate distraction would be a headline in a local paper … that reads, ‘WCC scabs local high school jobs.’”

After learning about the foreign language initiative, the faculty pointed out that it had “significant problems and potential liabilities,” Garey said. It was potentially in violation of the Michigan Department of Education’s Teacher Certification Code, and WCC’s board of trustee’s policy on dual enrollment, she explained.

Bellanca responded to Garey’s comments, saying that the administration hadn’t been aware of the problems with the initiative.

“We did not know that they were negotiating with their union, or we would have never done that,” Bellanca said. “As soon as we heard that it was going to be for ninth and 10th grade, it was no deal … We called immediately and found out, and we told them to stop, that we would stop. We pulled out of it.”

Bellanca and trustees respond

At the May 27 meeting, Bellanca responded to the faculty’s concerns and to the May 1 vote of no confidence.
Bellanca told the faculty that she was sorry if she has disrespected them in any way. She said that she can explain the reasons for everything they’ve raised concerns about.

“The one thing that we can all agree on is that we care about students,” Bellanca said. “You may not like me – I wish you did – but you may not like me, and that’s OK … You might not like my style, because my style is a little more participatory, and sometimes that’s taken a multiple of ways, but what you need to know is that I have my heart and soul in this job.”

And the trustees, she added, hold her to “very high standards,” despite what the faculty might think.

Each member of the board of trustees also responded to the faculty at the meeting. The majority of them said that they did not consider it their responsibility to address the faculty’s concerns, nor did they quite understand the concerns. They also reiterated their full support for Bellanca.

“We’re very supportive of a president who’s working very hard to do all the right things for the college as a whole – every aspect of it, not just instruction – and the community, because we are a community college,” Trustee Stephen Gill said.

“We are not just a collection of classrooms.

“The trustees have oversight,” Gill added, “but our job is to support the president and what she does.”
Several trustees reiterated Gill’s sentiment that it is hard for the board to delve too deeply into the curriculum issues because they have a lot of other constituents to answer to.

“We understand what you’re saying to us, we just don’t understand what is it that you want us as a board to do,” Trustee Diana McKnight-Morton said. “We don’t know what’s going on with your program, because we have so many other issues that we’re looking at. We are the advisory board, and we are the policy-making board primarily.

“Right now, you’re taking away from what the real business is of this board to deal with your issues that we still don’t quite understand,” McKnight-Morton added.

Trustee Mark Freeman stood out from the rest of the board, acknowledging that they might have some responsibility to intervene.

“Mostly, I want to see us work and really get to the heart of the matter,” he said. Freeman also noted that the criticisms the board has heard from the faculty “may contain some meaningful information for us.”

What comes next?

The Higher Learning Commission had until July 16 to review the documents and respond to the college.
It also may not send a response if it does not find validity to the complaints, Julie Morrison, the college’s HLC liaison, said

“When we receive a complaint, if we go through it and think that there are some issues, we send a report to the institution and give them a chance to send a response,” John Hausaman, an HLC spokesman, said.

After receiving the college’s response, the HLC would determine whether or not to take action. There are several possibilities as to what that action would be, Hausaman said, but it could include sending people to campus to investigate.

But the HLC’s complaint process is slow, he said.

“It could be a while before you see anything actually happen,” Hausaman said. “There’s no general time frame. Each complaint would be taken on a case-by-case basis … I don’t anticipate that it would take years, but it could be a while.”
It is important to specify, he added, that the HLC only takes into account the criteria for the school’s accreditation. So if the HLC were to agree with the faculty that the college has violated the criteria for accreditation, it could put the college’s accreditation in jeopardy.

WCC has been accredited by the HLC since 1975, Julie Morrison, executive director of institutional effectiveness, planning, and accreditation, said at a recent board meeting. The most recent reaffirmation of accreditation was in February 2010, and the next reaffirmation is set for 2019-2020.

Five new programs approved for fall

By NATALIE WRIGHT
Editor

Students who are still exploring career pathways will have a few new choices to consider this fall with the introduction of five new academic programs at Washtenaw Community College.

All of the following information comes from the program recommendations presented to, and approved by, the WCC board of trustees.

For more information on these programs, visit: http://www.wccnet.edu/academics/programs/

Honors in the Liberal Arts

WCC’s first honors program is designed for students who wish to transfer to competitive four-year universities. The reading- and writing-intensive curriculum totals 60-61 credit hours and is built around the theme “America in the World: Global Awareness and Diversity.”

This program was designed as a response to WCC’s “Shaping Our Future” opportunity analysis, in which the college received these responses: “Huron students view WCC as a ‘failed choice;’” “WCC needs to stop coming off as the poor stepchild;” “Balance the tension between high standards and the open door.”

Paralegal Studies/Pre-Law

In this program, students will earn an Associate in Arts degree while preparing for entry-level paralegal positions or further study in the field of law.

The median pay for paralegal positions is $46,990, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Paralegal positions are expected to grow 17 percent between 2012 and 2022, according to the bureau. This means there will be 46,200 new job openings during that time.

Facility and Energy Management

This certificate program, based on a foundation in facilities management, will teach students how to manage the use of energy in commercial and residential buildings. The required courses total 18 credit hours and focus on renewable energy and sustainability.

Median wages for related careers such as administrative service managers, supervisors of mechanics and installers and repairers average around $30-$40 per hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The bureau also estimates a 12 percent increase in the number of related jobs between 2012 and 2022.

HVAC Energy Management Technician

In this advanced certificate program, students will learn about the operation of HVAC equipment and techniques that are used to reduce energy consumption. The required courses total 20 credit hours.

The median wage for HVAC jobs is $43,640 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

HVAC jobs in Michigan are expected to reach 10,480 in 2018, a 19.6 percent increase from 2008, according to the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

Engineering Design Technology

Students will learn how to use engineering software and production methods to design and create products in this certificate program. Courses total 18-19 credit hours and will focus on product design processes and engineering and design concepts.

The median pay for positions in related fields ranges between $50,980 and $57,850, according to the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget. The department also predicts up to nine percent increases in related positions between 2008 and 2018.

Students take gold at SkillsUSA

By Jon Price
Staff Writer

Washtenaw Community College students Michael Bustamante and Dan Ritenour each won gold medals for Collision Repair and Automotive Refinishing, respectively, in this year’s SkillsUSA Michigan State Leadership and Skills Conference.

Other WCC students who medaled in the competition were Ashley Thomas, who took second place in Automotive Refinishing, and Chris Martin, who received third place in Collision Repair. Amy Fell (Collision Repair) and Trey Trotter (Automotive Refinishing), both placed in the top 10 statewide in their divisions in the competition, held in Grand Rapids in April.

Ritenour eventually placed seventh in the nationwide SkillsUSA competition.

“It’s tough,” lab instructor Jay Mosquera said. “The competition is really tough.

“But the students who get involved in SkillsUSA, 100 percent of them, have been successful in their careers outside of here.”

SkillsUSA is an organization made up of more than 320,000 students, instructors and industry professionals who help train technical and skilled employees for the workforce.

For more information, visit http://www.skillsusa.org/about/

 

Tuition is ‘frozen?’ What’s up with that?

By JON PRICE
Staff Writer

FREEZE-1WEB“What do you call WCC’s tuition? Frozen.” At least this is the claim made on the institution’s website.

However, on Aug. 1, tuition rates will increase at Washtenaw Community College, in some cases by up to $32 per credit hour. Some may question how the college could claim to have frozen their tuition, when in reality it is on the rise for many students.

Visit the school website’s homepage, at http://www.wccnet.edu and click on this bold claim, they may find an answer, just below the surface.

“WCC Freezes Tuition Rates,” reads the header. Just underneath in smaller print: “Students who register for Fall Semester by July 31 can lock in current tuition rates.”

Fair enough, early birds get the worm, or at least a lower rate on education than their less punctual peers. Except that is not where the stipulations end.

More fine print says that not only must students register for classes by July 31, but also pay their tuition or set up a payment plan for a semester that doesn’t actually begin until Aug. 22.

Students who use the school’s website regularly over the summer months may very well see the advertisement, read the fine print, register for classes, pay for those classes and receive last semester’s tuition rates. If they registered in time for last year’s freeze, however, they are still experiencing an increase – just a delayed one.

But the reality is that while some students may periodically use the site to check their WCC email or browse through classes that are being offered in the fall semester, most probably don’t pay much attention to the school’s website while on break, or think to check for hot summer sale prices on tuition.

Travel west on I-94 from the Wayne County area and you may also see a billboard emphasizing tuition “freeze,” which seems to indicate that WCC will not be raising their tuition for the 2014-2015 academic year. This may be misleading to new students who have yet to log on to the website and read the fine print.

While claiming their tuition is “frozen” might not be false, it’s not quite true either. It may seem ethical to use the marketing schemes to sell televisions or furniture, but using these tactics to trick college students into thinking their tuition has remained the same begs the question: What’s up with that?

For students who didn’t get the memo, rates will increase by $2 per credit hour for in-district students, $3 for those outside the district, a $4 increase per hour for those who are attending the college from other states and a whopping $32 per credit hour for our college’s international students.

On top of these increases in tuition, for those who did not read the fine print, there’s also an across-the-board raise of $9 per credit hour for all online classes – early registration or not.

Not exactly frozen.

If you did take the time to read the fine print and still miss the deadline, please don’t worry about a tiny increase in your tuition. After all, it’s only a number. Maybe you’ll pay a little closer attention to the website, eh?

Then you would get to see the pretty graph, with its nice bright colors, telling you why you shouldn’t sweat the details. In the advertisement following the “tuition freeze” on the homepage we see a wonderful chart that compares WCC’s tuition rates to the competition – if WCC’s competitors were private and public four-year universities. Nowhere on the graph do we see where our school stacks up against other area community colleges or trade schools.

Currently the school’s website has tuition for an in-district student listed as $91 per credit hour. This is slightly below neighboring Jackson Community College at $117 per credit hour for in-district students and Monroe Community College at $104 per credit hour. WCC still has the competitive edge on these schools but that small difference isn’t as impressive when played out on an informational graphic for the school’s homepage.

I’m not arguing that our college is no longer affordable, and I also think it is fair to say that the slight increases in tuition do not seem out of line with other schools in our state. I just feel that the education a college or university provides should not be sold in the same manner as an off-brand television, with deceiving graphics and slick marketing techniques.

As college students, we should be critical thinkers equipped to examine and research claims and decide whether they are legitimate or not. But to think at some point we would have to apply these principles to determine if the very institution we learned them from was pulling a fast one on us seems a bit callous.

In the future, hopefully our school will leave it to the “real world” to swindle us and corrupt our idealistic world views and just be honest next time they want to reach a little bit further into our pockets.

After years of decline, enrollment is looking up

jimmy_saoud By JAMES SAOUD
Managing Editor

photo of Natalie Wright And NATALIE WRIGHT
Editor

Spring headcount 2013-14 Washtenaw Community College’s enrollment for its Spring/Summer semester was up more than 4 percent from last year in both credit hours and total number of students, as of the profile date on July 2. Distance learning enrollments were up more than 17 percent.

WCC stands out in a state where most community colleges are still experiencing major enrollment declines, according to a report from the Michigan Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

According to a State of the College report sent out by the college’s public relations department, WCC is one of only three community colleges in Michigan that have reported an increase in their Spring/Summer enrollment compared to 2013.

And college officials say that it was no accident.

“We worked hard for that increase. We didn’t just do business as usual; we worked hard for that, and we’re going to learn how to do more,” President Rose Bellanca said at a recent board of trustees meeting.

Initiatives that led to the increase included a “robust” phone follow-up system with both new applicants and current students, Vice President of Student and Academic Services Linda Blakey said.

Blakey also attributes the increase to new marketing initiatives, including “Launch,” a course guide that is mailed out, and new links on the college’s homepage where prospective students can “request information” or “schedule a tour.”

The college’s more direct focus on K-12 initiatives, including dual enrollment, have also helped bring new students to campus, Blakey said.

Enrollment numbers for Fall semester were also up slightly as of July 9, compared to the same date last year, and Distance Learning enrollments were up more than 10 percent.

Spring enrollment trends 2012-14 But, as Blakey noted, “Fall is still a ways off.” The college is taking a lot of steps to reach its goal of 14,000 students by Fall 2015, she added.

Over the past six months, WCC has implemented a software program called Enrollment Management Action System. Thus far, only the recruitment part of EMAS has been used, Blakey said, but the college is now beginning the process of implementing the retention part of the software.

“Because we know we’re not going to get to that 14,000 just with new students,” Blakey said. “We’re going to have to do it with also getting more of our currently enrolled students to stay.

“We’re hoping that with that new tool, we can make a difference in helping students stay at Washtenaw, making them successful so that they’re more likely to want to stay.”