March 6, 2012/Detroit News
Today, Michigan's community colleges fill an important role in the state's education spectrum, providing relatively low-cost options for students who go on to four-year colleges and universities, or serving as a center for worker retraining.
The Detroit News argues that House Bill 4496 would just give colleges a "narrow" group of majors in which to offer four-year degrees ("Give colleges a narrow four-year degree option," March 1). But even recent history shows that mission creep is inevitable. In 2010, a version of the bill was introduced with supporters saying they only had a "narrow" agenda: nursing, culinary arts, concrete technologies. Now it's back, with maritime technology and energy production technology added. Next year it'll be something else.
The bill is unnecessary, will lead to higher costs for community college students and taxpayers, and undermine the extraordinary collaboration that has characterized the community college-university relationship that has grown in this state.
Unnecessary: Michigan's public university presidents have pledged to provide a four-year degree in any subject that a community college can show there is demand for — at the community college's home.
Expensive: Supporters say community colleges are cheaper than four-year colleges. The House of Representatives Fiscal Agency says that would change: "The bill would serve to increase operating costs of state community colleges that elect to offer the select baccalaureate programs."
Undermine collaboration: As The News noted, 15,000 students already participate in 300 different bachelor's degree completion programs — run by state universities — on community college campuses. Those programs exist because of a commitment to collaboration that should not be weakened.
Gov. Rick Snyder has called for governments to collaborate and avoid unnecessary duplication of services. Legislation that would create 24 more four-year colleges in Michigan failed that test, and should not be approved.
Michael A. Boulus, executive director, Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, Lansing