There are often issues that we can consider as controversial or debatable. Each week Dr. David Mielke presents one of these issues to give you Something to Think About. The topic for Monday is "A Matter of Degrees." There has been a long running policy battle about whether community colleges in Michigan should be allowed to offer bachelors degrees. A two bill package was recently introduced in the legislature that would allow community colleges to offer 4 year degrees, but would then prohibit the community colleges from levying property taxes. A separate bill has been stalled for more than a year that would allow community colleges to offer a limited number of bachelor degree programs. Do we need more 4-year degree programs along with what is already being offered by Michigan's 15 universities? Will the potential competition for students lead to what some say is already over-capacity at the 15 universities at a time when college age students in Michigan are declining? Should the legislature pass bills to effectively stop community colleges from offering new bachelor programs
David looks at some issues:
1. The most recent bills would in effect stop the effort by community colleges to offer 4-year degree programs because the colleges rely on property taxes for on average, roughly a third of their operating revenue.
2. The year-old bill would allow expansion of 4 year programs in ski area management, allied health, information technology, manufacturing technology and nursing – resulting impacts.
3. Property taxes, operating budgets, and the differences between the community colleges and the universities.
4. Tuition and fees and how they impact operating budgets.
5. The consequences if community colleges lose local property tax levies and offer 4 year programs.
6. How the Michigan Association of State Universities weighs in on the issue.
7. The what and who of community colleges who have gone ahead and offered limited 4-year degrees.
8. Where the rest of the states are on this issue.
There is no question that the state needs innovative programs, whether 2 year or 4-year to meet the changing workforce needs of the state. The current 4 year programs offered by community colleges--cement technology, energy production management, maritime technology and culinary arts are excellent examples of community colleges meeting the need in career ready fields. But would the expansion into other bachelors degree programs meet a need or cause competition with the state universities? Would the loss of local property taxes raise tuition and fees making community colleges less competitive and affordable for the students? Is the expansion of nursing programs critical to the state? Is the problem of capacity in 4 year nursing programs a question of limited enrollments or one of cost and availability of qualified faculty? Should either of the bills currently in the legislature be passed? Is the advantage of Community Colleges that they provide an excellent opportunity for students to complete the first 2 years of a potential 4-year degree in cooperation with universities at lower cost? Have they also demonstrated the ability to offer quality career oriented 2 year degrees? However, is the expansion to multiple 4-year degree programs a misstep? Does the California pilot program offer a possible solution; community colleges can offer one bachelor degree program to meet a specific workforce need that is not offered at a nearby state university? Although none of the bills currently introduced in the legislature are likely to be passed this year, do any of them present the best solution to the problem? Is removing the ability to collect local property taxes a good solution? We need more innovative career oriented programs. Is it a matter of education?
What do you think? Something to think about.
That’s it---Something to Think About. Thank you for listening. This is Dave Mielke your host for the Week in Review for July 11, 2016 on the Michigan Business Network.
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