"Community colleges are the most effective economic and community development solution in the state, and we need to secure our ability to serve the educational needs of our students, both those choosing to attend after high school and adults returning to school for new job skills and careers," said Randall J. VanWagoner, president of Mohawk Valley Community College, and president of the Association of Community College Presidents.
Community colleges in New York State are funded through a three-way partnership: the state, the student, and the sponsor county. Traditionally, this was intended to be an equal partnership. As demonstrated below, that funding formula has shifted considerably since the 1970s. Today's students now fund 43 percent of community college operations while the state picks up less than 25 percent of those costs.
Community college enrollment surged from 2009-2014 in response to the needs of New Yorkers during the great recession, admitting high school graduates who could not afford to attend four-year college tuition and returning adults laid off and out of work. Last year, enrollment levels returned to pre-recession numbers. Community colleges are experiencing fewer tuition dollars and a decline in state per capita FTE aid.
By keeping FTE aid flat, the proposed Executive State Budget represents an actual year-to-year decrease in direct state support of $20.6M (-4.3%), with 28 of the 30 colleges losing direct state support in the new academic year. With this drop in community college enrollment it is important to understand that "level funding per FTE" (at $2,597 per FTE) is actually 2.92% below 2007-08 funding levels per student.
Community colleges had requested an increase of $250 per FTE, an amount that would have been a projected year-to-year increase of $22.7M (+4.8%), with 24 colleges increasing direct state support by an average of $1.0 M and six losing direct state support at an average of $69K.
This $250 per FTE increase of 4.8 percent, however, falls short of the average annual increase of 6.2 percent that the colleges have faced in employee benefits costs in recent years. The adjusted request of $285 per FTE would result in a year-to-year increase of support from the state of approximately $29 million, and match the historic 6.2 percent level. This will position community colleges to more effectively respond to the complex and substantial needs of our current and future students.In New York State, 42 counties directly sponsor the community colleges in either the City University of New York (CUNY) or State University of New York (SUNY) systems. As direct sponsors, these counties incur the responsibility of operating and maintaining these colleges. New York's other 20 counties share and contribute to the operational costs of community colleges through a complex charge-back system, designed to keep these colleges affordable to New York State students.
"This request is designed to keep our community colleges strong and our students prepared for the jobs of the future. That is a critical component to keeping New York economically competitive," said NYSAC President Bill Cherry, Schoharie County Treasurer.Community colleges are also critical to helping the state close the widening income gap in New York, said VanWagoner. "Our community colleges serve the most diverse student populations and represent roughly half of all undergraduate students within the SUNY system - more than 230,000 strong. Community colleges are critical to advancing the Opportunity Agenda in New York, and today we call on state leaders to invest in that agenda by investing in our community colleges."