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Brief: Community College District Lines Cost Michigan Students

October 16, 2020
 
 

District boundaries for Michigan's community colleges could be exacerbating student access and funding inequities, according to a new issue brief from the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning Washington, D.C., think tank.

Michigan students pay more to attend community colleges outside their home districts. But not every resident lives in a community college district -- about 23 percent of graduating high school students don't, especially those living in more rural areas of the state.

The brief looks at Henry Ford College in Dearborn specifically, as it has great racial disparity in its enrollment. More than half of its students come from outside the district. Many come from Detroit, a predominantly Black city, as the college is only 10 miles from the city's downtown area. Compared to the district demographics, Black students are overrepresented at the college by 18 percentage points, the brief states.

Because these students come from outside the district, they are charged $68 more per credit hour, or about $2,000 more per year, than if they attended a college in their home district.

Henry Ford College also brings in the third-lowest amount of local appropriations per student in the state, which means it has less money to spend on instruction and student support services for its disproportionately Black student population, according to the brief.

The brief argues that community college district boundaries should be re-evaluated to account for geography and equity. It also recommends that the state eliminate out-of-district price differentiations altogether, or at least extend discounted rates to broader geographic service areas.

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