A bipartisan consensus has emerged among state officials that community colleges should play a major role in boosting the Michigan economy by bridging the “skills gap” between high school graduates and college grads.

Former Gov. Rick Snyder preached that our state needs a workforce that offers more talent for businesses seeking quality employees. Our new governor, Gretchen Whitmer, takes the same tact. This week, Whitmer appeared at a Lansing event with educators whose goal is to dramatically raise the number of working-age Michigan residents with post-secondary education – a graduate or bachelor’s degree, an associate’s degree or certification–to 60 percent by 2030.

Yet, few elected officials seem willing to acknowledge that Michigan’s community colleges fall far short in offering the kind of schooling that leads to good jobs with good pay. Community colleges are supposed to provide a gateway to middle class careers, producing graduates ranging from welders to dental hygienists.

OCC campus in Auburn Hills

In fact, all of the state’s public community colleges rank below 300 or more schools nationwide, based on basic measurements of quality education.  In particular, some Michigan community colleges have graduation rates below 20 or 25 percent.

Nearly two-thirds of all jobs now require some sort of post-secondary education. However, many community college enrollees seeking a skilled trade’s career or the path to a 4-year degree struggle from day one, with some required to take remedial education classes. What’s more, the failures of the state’s community college system have little correlation to low-income areas or disadvantaged students.

One of the lowest-ranked two-year colleges in Michigan—and across the U.S.—is located in one of the state’s wealthiest communities.  Oakland Community College (OCC), based in Bloomfield Hills and with five campuses across Oakland County, has a graduation rate of just 11 percent among those students who spend extra time—three years—at the college.

Other schools with particularly poor rankings are Mid-Michigan Community College (located in Harrison, north of Mt. Pleasant) and the community colleges of Grand Rapids, Muskegon and Wayne County.  Mott Community College in Flint is ranked best in Michigan.  Its overall, national rank? 319th.

Continue reading here

Classroom photo: Wikimedia Commons