Program: At-risk student success
All from GF/GP:
This appropriation funds the at-risk student success
program. The at-risk student success grant funds community college programs for
students who are labeled "at-risk." For a student to be labeled "at-risk," he
or she must meet one of the following criteria: (1) He or she must have been
placed in one or more developmental course(s) as a result of poor scores on
standardized tests or as a result of failure to make satisfactory academic
progress; (2) he or she should have been diagnosed by a qualified professional
as learning disabled; or (3) he or she should require English as a second
language assistance. The majority of at-risk students fall into the first
The funding method for the at-risk program adds "contact
hours" for developmental and preparatory classes and then divides that sum by a
college’s three-year average of all student contact hours. That result is then
divided by the total number of contact hours by all community colleges in
Michigan. This equals the share of funds directed to that community college for
"at-risk" students. Each school also receives a base grant of $40,000 for its
This program should be eliminated. Providing extra
assistance to students, whether "at-risk" or not, is best handled by individual,
family and community efforts, not state government.
Funding of at-risk student programs in community colleges
promotes a perverse system of incentives and rewards. Under the current system,
a student who puts very little effort into a class and fails may be eligible for
special treatment, whereas a student who puts forth a strong effort but only
earns a C may not qualify. This program can actually subsidize poor performance
by rewarding community colleges with additional funding.
According to the formula, community colleges receive more
funding for each student labeled "at-risk." The number of students defined as
"at-risk" has gone up 20 percent in fiscal years 2000 and 2001 over each
previous fiscal year, respectively, even though overall community college
attendance remained fairly constant.
 At Gogebic Community College a whopping
45 percent of students in fiscal year 2001 were defined "at-risk."
According to Rhonda Burke of the Michigan Department of
Career Development, community colleges are free to change their interpretation
of the guidelines for at-risk students in any particular year.
state does not have a standard mechanism for community colleges to assess which
students are "at-risk" and which are not. This gives community colleges wide
latitude on how many students it assigns to developmental classes. In addition,
community colleges need not spend their additional "at-risk" monies on students
Grants from this program may be used to fund building and
technology upgrades such as new computers and software from which all students,
faculty, and administrators’ benefit. During fiscal year 2001 Northwestern
Community College in Traverse City used all of its at-risk funds for updating
"technology related equipment and software."
 The annual report for the
program clearly states that the "purchases need not be associated with the
operation of a program designed to address the needs of at-risk students."
another example, C.S. Mott Community College in Flint allocated 42 percent of
its at-risk funding to updating its "Reading Labs" and classrooms.
Savings: $3,322,700. Governor Granholm’s 2005 proposal leaves this
appropriation unchanged over the previous year’s budget.