Michigan's financially-strapped community colleges reaping little benefit from retraining programs
The Detroit News
July 4, 2010
When Gov. Jennifer Granholm launched the No Worker Left Behind program in August 2007, she stood alongside the presidents of the state's community colleges, which were to be the proving grounds for the massive effort to transform Michigan's economy.
But nearly three years into the program, fewer than 1 in 3 of the displaced workers have chosen two-year public colleges, which already are at or near capacity with recent high school graduates who can't afford, can't meet standards at or chose not to attend four-year universities.
That statistic amplifies criticism by some who believe that for-profit proprietary schools -- often less proven and more expensive trade schools -- are reaping the biggest benefits of the program while state funding for community colleges stagnates.
"By the state not financing community colleges and allowing community colleges to expand to take on further work force courses and programs, it actually costs the state money because the capacity is absorbed by private schools at a much higher rate," said James Jacobs, president of Macomb Community College, who is concerned about the lack of state funding.
"As a public policy issue, by refusing to expand community colleges, in effect we are inefficiently allocating public dollars to private schools."
Though the state is pushing for long-term training in degree-granting programs, a hallmark of the No Worker Left Behind program is consumer choice, said Andy Levin, head of the program.
"They (community colleges) shouldn't automatically get all the business," Levin said. "They should get it because they are doing the best work, and they are."