Border walls of higher expenses are keeping some students from pursuing their education dreams.
Michigan and Ohio have reciprocal programs that allow students easy access to classes across the state border, without added cost.
The problem with these programs, according to MCCC President Kojo Quartey, is that they are too limiting – they only apply to programs not offered in the student’s county.
The institutions involved are Owens Community College, the University of Toledo, Eastern Michigan University, and MCCC.
Another problem, Quartey said, is that dual-enrolled students have been excluded.
Without the reciprocal agreements, any student attending a college in a state where they weren’t a resident would face the higher out-of-state tuition.
Quartey said the reciprocal agreements are valuable to students and should be expanded to include all courses.
“We need to go above and beyond the reciprocity with special arrangements for students that come from across the border,” Quartey said.
Any counties in Michigan that border another state, such as Ohio, would have students who would benefit from this, he said.
A more lenient reciprocity policy would be a disadvantage to Michigan and MCCC if Ohio students were not allowed to do the same in Michigan, he added.
Because Bedford Township is closest to Ohio in Monroe County, it is where the issue is felt the most — especially since MCCC is working to revitalize the Whitman center.
Whitmer High School, one of the largest high schools in Toledo, is about four miles from the Whitman Center. That makes it a great prospect for students to take advantage of a reciprocal agreement.
Attracting more students has become an issue at MCCC over the last few years, when enrollment has shrunk by a third, from about 4,800 to 3,200.
There are many challenges that can contribute to a shrinking student population at a community college, Quartey said.
Among the challenges are students who possess a four-year mentality, taking only a few courses at the 2-year school, and then transferring.
Better reciprocity agreements would allow the college to attact more of our neighbors across the border, at in-state rates.
To help welcome newcomers here, Quartey emphasizes a positive outlook.
“I have a rule where I will never pass a student in the hall without saying hello,” Quartey said. “Customer service is key and the little things mean a lot.”
He recently attended a conference in Las Vegas where the theme was Pathways to Prosperity.
A recent national survey was presented at the conference, Quartey said. It found that only 21 percent of community college students felt that somebody there cared about them.
“The number one reason students stay at an institution is that someone cares about them,” Quartey said.
He said some Michigan taxpayers oppose a more flexibile reciprocity policy because it subsidizes individuals from out-of-state.
“For me, as an economist, when students come across the border from Ohio and they come here to spend their money, it is an injection of funds into the economy,” Quartey said.
Dual-enrolled students aren’t even able to take advantage of the current reciprocal agreements.
Legislation has been proposed that would amend the law to include dual-enrolled Michigan students in the reciprocal agreements with Ohio institutions, Quartey said.
The legislation would not be valuable unless Ohio passed a similar law, Quartey said.
“If it’s not a two-way street, then I don’t want to be on that street,” he said.