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Community college costs escalate for county

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 July 2013 at 12:00 am

Legislator doesn’t want county to pay for failing students

Photo by Tom Rivers – Orleans County’s costs towards community colleges have skyrocketed in recent years with most of the money going to Genesee Community College, pictured here at the main campus in Batavia.

ALBION – Orleans County has watched its budget for community colleges nearly triple in the past decade, jumping from $680,419 in 2004 to a budgeted $1.74 million in 2013.

“It’s growing at an alarming rate,” said Legislature Chairman David Callard. “It’s a serious situation. The costs are getting out of control.”

The county pays about a third of the tuition costs for county residents who attend community college. The state pays about a third and the students cover the other third.

More students have been enrolling at community colleges in the past decade. Genesee Community College is the most popular destination for Orleans residents who can choose between nearby GCC sites in Albion, Medina and Batavia.

GCC has worked to make classes and campuses more accessible to students, and the college has pushed “free” classes to high-achieving high school students in the summer. That marketing campaign bothers county leaders, who say the classes really aren’t free. Students don’t have to pay their share of tuition, but the county and state are still paying towards those classes.

Legislator George Bower, R-Holley, doesn’t want to see county dollars pay for courses that students fail or drop. He said he has asked GCC to provide a list of how many courses fall into that category, but hasn’t received the information. If students drop a class or fail it, Bower said the student should then foot the full cost of that course.

“I really don’t think our hard-working taxpayers should pay for students who fail,” Bower said during Wednesday’s Legislature meeting. “We still are paying and it has to stop.”

Legislators would like to see the community college funding formula changed so counties bear less of the costs. The state Legislature and governor would need to be involved to restructure the funding for community colleges.

“They should work to straighten out this damn mess,” Bower said.