By Paulette Parker
Governor Snyder released his 2016 fiscal year budget recommendation on Feb. 11, which includes positive investments for Michigan’s 28 community colleges, particularly Washtenaw Community College.
The proposed budget includes a 1.4 percent increase of $4.3 million overall in community college operations funding, bringing total operations funding to $311.5 million. For the third consecutive year, it is recommended that WCC receive the highest operations funding percentage rate increase at 1.9 percent.
“It’s a recommendation of how well we perform according to state performance metrics,” said Jason Morgan, director of government relations at WCC. Washtenaw was involved in the creation of these metrics three years ago.
“It’s not the highest dollar increase because there are some colleges that are bigger and have traditionally received more money than we have,” Morgan said. “But this is getting us closer to being with those higher schools.”
“That is very, very impressive. I am so glad to hear this because that shows what our faculty and what everybody is doing at this institution to make this a better institution,” WCC trustee, Diana McKnight-Morton said at February’s board meeting.
With the small operations increase, coupled with proposed increased state support for the Michigan Public School Employee Retirement System (MPSERS), community college funding would grow by $29 million over current year funding, an 8 percent increase in total state appropriations.
The proposed budget also includes funding for independent, part-time student grants recommended at $6 million, representing the first time since fiscal year 2009 that the program has been funded.
This financial aid program targets part-time, adult students at community colleges. The governor encourages community colleges to use this funding to re-enroll former students who may have dropped out without earning a degree or other credential.
The governor also proposed doubling the skilled trades training fund from $10 million to $20 million. He recommended $17.8 million in the K-12 budget for career tech programs and early middle college programs focusing on skilled trades.
The expectation is that this funding comes with increased collaboration between K-12, community colleges and universities.
While this is the governor’s recommendation, the legislature will decide on its own budget.
“We are extremely pleased with the governor’s recommendation of WCC and we really hope the legislature will pass that version,” Morgan said.