Taxpayers need to demand transparency
Kirtland Community College was established March 7, 1966, by a vote of the electorate of Crawford, Ogemaw, Oscoda and Roscommon counties.
“Kirtland Community College, in a broad sense, belongs to and is supported by the residents of the college district,” the policy statement on the college’s website reads. “This college is operated in the public interest by the board of trustees, a representative body chosen by the community college district electorate and responsible to them for the proper administration of the college.”
The taxpayers of Ogemaw, Oscoda, Roscommon and Crawford counties need to become and remain involved in the decisions of the Kirtland Community College Board of Trustees and college President Tom Quinn.
For the last several years, Kirtland has been slowly migrating its services to the northwest.
The board and the college president have a responsibility to first represent the four counties and the taxpayers of those counties who have supported the college since its inception.
On the surface, expansion makes sense and is likely needed. However, the college has a vested interest in the Roscommon County campus, a location that was designed to be equally inconvenient to its four-county region — centrally located to be equal distance from the population centers of the counties it serves.
Taxpayers need to be mindful of the college’s expansion and should demand that an expansion is just that — additional services rendered at secondary locations. Those services should first be offered at its primary location.
However, Kirtland has offered mandatory courses for a degree only at a secondary location — presumably a move to boost attendance at the satellite locations.
Kirtland recently began operations at its Health Sciences Center, located off I-75 just south of Grayling.
When questioned about the location, Quinn claimed the location was more convenient for the majority of students. However, according to information provided by the college, more than 61 percent of its students are traveling farther if they attend the Health Sciences Center. It should be noted that these figures are based on the college’s total enrollment at all campuses, and not all the students who are attending that particular facility.
The college’s move to its Grayling location included its book-store and food services. The Roscommon campus was essentially abandoned in this regard, leaving students enrolled at the campus, including those who attend the recently renovated auto tech facility, to either commute to Grayling or obtain services elsewhere off campus.
The push northwest is also evident with the repurposing of its West Branch satellite location. When unveiled, the college boasted the location as the home of its surgical tech program. At a renovation cost of about $50,000, the building is now said to be home to the college’s business programs, though the parking lot is usually rather empty.
Recently the college entered into an agreement with Otsego County to take over its management and operations of University Center Gaylord.
The college has operated its Michigan Technical Education Center (M-TEC) facility at the University Center since its inception. It migrated programs from the Roscommon campus to the M-TEC, in addition to expanding its course offerings at the M-TEC facility.
The additional offerings at M-TEC are wonderful, but if those programs are only offered outside the four-county tax base, at the convenience of Otsego County, the college is doing a disservice to its founding tax base.
At its last regular meeting, the board announced date and possible location changes for its meetings, saying it may hold some at the University Center Gaylord.
In 2015 the college received more than $1.3 million in taxes from Ogemaw County, $2.8 million from Roscommon County, $1.19 million from Crawford County and $709,546 from Oscoda County. It also received $742,000 from Otsego County for its M-TEC facility at the University Center.
If the college intends to continue its northwest migration, that needs to be made clear to the taxpayers who support it, so they can decide if that support should continue. The taxpayers also owe it to the college to become involved now and make their voices heard before detrimental decisions are made on their behalf.