Counties press state to increase support for community colleges

Posted 6 March 2019 at 12:14 pm

Press Release, NYS Association of Counties

File photo by Tom Rivers – The entrance to Genesee Community College’s main campus is shown in in Batavia.

It’s not commonly known, but community colleges in New York State are funded through a three-way partnership: the state, the student, and county governments.

“This was intended to be an equal partnership. However, the funding formula has shifted considerably since the 1970s. Today’s students fund 43 percent of community college operations while the state picks up less than 25 percent of those costs. We are asking the state to uphold their commitment to these educational systems,” said NYS Association of Counties President Chuck Nesbitt, the Orleans County Chief Administrative Officer.

Counties have raised concerns in recent years regarding the state’s funding commitment to community colleges. The state financing mechanism, linked to the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) students on each campus, creates a roller-coaster state funding impact for students and counties. In addition, over the last decade state support has fallen far short of the rate of inflation.

This is especially concerning at a time when community colleges play a crucial role in workforce development for counties in all parts of New York State.

New funding formula proposed

To alleviate this problem and stabilize the community college system, the SUNY Chancellor is proposing a new methodology that would create a state maintenance of effort for the funding of community college campuses.

The new formula would prevent cuts in base aid and create a state funding floor for each campus. In addition, the Chancellor is calling for an increase in state funding for full time equivalent (FTE) students by $125, from $2,847 to $2,972 per student. New York’s counties support the Chancellor’s proposal, as well as the community college presidents and faculty.

“Community colleges are the key to a trained workforce throughout New York and are the greatest hope to foster social mobility for its citizens,” said Dr. Randall VanWagoner, President of Mohawk Valley Community College. “Establishing a floor in the state aid formula would provide stable and predictable funding to allow for better planning and operations as we anticipate and respond to the ever-changing needs of our community.”

“Community colleges and their students deserve a steady, reliable funding stream. County budgets don’t have capacity to take on the  state’s funding responsibility,” said Stephen Acquario, NYSAC Executive Director. “We support the Chancellor’s proposal to stabilize community college financing, and we urge the state to fulfill their obligation to New York’s students.”

Editor’s note: In Orleans, the county is budgeting $1.9 million this year for the local chargeback for community colleges. That cost is up from $680,419 in 2004.

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