2014 Michigan Community College Advocacy Agenda (pdf version)
Michigan’s community colleges are committed to providing students with an affordable, high-quality education. Colleges recognize that in order to meet employer demand for a skilled, modern workforce, the state must ensure cost does not become a barrier to college access. Facing a large budget surplus, Michigan should build on the modest appropriations increases of recent years by continuing to invest in community colleges, and by supporting capital outlay projects that will allow community colleges to provide quality educational facilities and infrastructure to their students.
TRANSFERRING COLLEGE CREDITS
By the year 2020, economists project that 65% of jobs will require some college credit. Unfortunately, only 37% of working-age adults in Michigan have at least an associate’s degree. Bridging this skills gap will require the most efficient use of our higher education system, including dual enrollment, early colleges, and community colleges. Michigan’s community colleges and universities have been working together to ensure that students get full credit for all these educational experiences when they transfer between institutions. The state should take the next step by creating incentives for students to use low-cost postsecondary options, and to build a portfolio of degrees and credentials on their way to the full baccalaureate degree.
Michigan’s community colleges recognize the sacrifices our military members have made in serving our country, and the critical role colleges play in helping many veterans transition home successfully. We are proud to have joined with the state’s universities to create the Consortium of Michigan Veterans Educators and will continue to work with the State of Michigan and other partners to improve services for our active military and veteran populations.
Escalating retirement costs have deeply affected community colleges’ operating budgets. Michigan’s community colleges strongly supported recent legislation reforming the Michigan Public School Employee Retirement System (MPSERS) to ensure its sustainability. Next year, accounting changes will require colleges to show a portion of the MPSERS unfunded accrued liability on their own books, causing concern for borrowing, accreditation, and other purposes. Colleges strongly support efforts by the state to direct surplus one-time revenues toward paying down MPSERS unfunded accrued liability.
In 2012, Michigan enacted legislation dramatically expanding dual enrollment options for high schoolers to allow even younger students and opportunities for more college credit. Colleges across the state are creating innovative and varied dual enrollment models, including traditional courses, courses offered at high schools, virtual courses, and early and middle colleges. Michigan should support these growing options by maintaining the authority colleges have to determine what programs best meet college and community needs.
EXPANDING COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICTS
Currently, if a county, township, school district, or intermediate school district (ISD) wants to join a community college district in the lower peninsula, it must be geographically contiguous to the existing district. This has led to situations where a community would like to join a college district but cannot do so, resulting in higher tuition costs for students and families. Michigan’s community colleges support legislation that allows voters in each community to join a college district if they choose to do so.
MICHIGAN NEW JOBS TRAINING PROGRAM
The Michigan New Jobs Training Program (MNJTP), designed as an economic development incentive, authorizes community colleges to create a training pool to support employers that are creating new jobs and/or expanding operations in Michigan. The training for the newly hired workers is paid by capturing the state income tax associated with the new employees’ wages and redirecting it to the college, instead of the state. In order to incent expansion and investment in Michigan's workforce, the cap definition on the enabling legislation needs to be clarified.
TAX INCREMENT FINANCING
Community colleges recognize the importance of collaborating with other local governments to facilitate projects that enhance the entire region. However, local property taxes represent a significant portion of the funding community college districts rely on to keep tuition and fees low. Michigan community colleges support legislation giving college districts increased control over whether tax funds authorized for community colleges may be captured for other purposes.
Public Act 495 of 2012 authorized community colleges to offer baccalaureate degrees in four applied and technical programs: concrete technology, maritime technology, culinary arts, and energy production technology. The first graduates from these programs will receive their diplomas as early as January 2014. Maximizing the community college system creates increased access and affordability to baccalaureate level training for many Michigan citizens who currently are geographically or financially place-bound. Michigan should build upon the early success of these programs by extending the authorization for community colleges to offer baccalaureate degrees in other high-demand, technical fields such as information technology, manufacturing technology, allied health, and nursing.