Schenectady County

SCCC threatens tuition hike after state fails to boost aid

Students may have to reach deeper into their pockets next year to attend Schenectady County Communit

Students may have to reach deeper into their pockets next year to attend Schenectady County Community College, college officials said Thursday.

A tuition hike for 2008-09 is possible because the state failed to boost aid to community colleges in its new budget, they said.

SCCC’s main revenue sources are tuition, state reimbursement and support from its sponsor, Schenectady County. The county provides $1.9 million annually. The last time the county Legislature increased the amount was two years ago, by $100,000.

“It’s nice there is no reduction in state aid and that it stayed the same, but we still have expenses,” said SCCC spokeswoman Heather Meaney. “We will be evaluating our options during the semester. What will happen is we will be looking at a significant tuition increase.”

Tuition at SCCC is $2,890 per year, among the lowest of the state’s 30 community colleges, SCCC officials said. Community colleges, unlike four-year SUNY schools, can set their own tuition rates. The college raised tuition last year by $70 to the current level.

The college had hoped to see an increase in support in the new state budget, which was approved Wednesday. Instead, state support remains at the current reimbursement rate of $2,675 per FTE, or full-time equivalency. State legislators rejected an earlier proposal to reduce the aid by $50 per FTE.

Student revenues represent 40 percent of SCCC’s budget in 2007-08, state aid represents 37 percent and the county’s contribution 23 percent.

College officials expect enrollment for 2008-09 to remain steady or increase slightly, but not enough to offset increases in institutional expenses, Meaney said. Enrollment at SCCC this fall is 4,924 students — 2,102 full time, 1,542 part time and 1,280 in the University in the High School program, Meaney said.

The college’s current budget is $21.3 million, which reflects a 4.5 percent increase over the 2006-07 budget. The areas of largest growth, and which are difficult to control, are personnel costs and fringe benefits. Personnel costs account for 53 percent of the budget and fringe benefits 27 percent.

College officials are unsure whether they will seek an increase from the county Legislature.

“We have no figures yet as to what we will be requesting from the county. We won’t know that for a while,” Meaney said.

SCCC administrators will develop the new budget starting in May and will submit it to SCCC trustees in June for approval. It then goes to the county for review and approval by the county Legislature. SUNY, which oversees community colleges, will review the budget in late fall for final approval.

Gary Hughes, D-Schenectady, chairman of the county Legislature’s Committee on Education and Libraries and a SCCC trustee, said he hasn’t heard the college’s position yet; college trustees will meet Monday.

“I don’t have a position on a college request to the county. You have to look at the total proposal they bring forward,” Hughes said.

He said some county officials will likely ask the college to institute student fees to close the revenue gap. The most likely fee would be a $35 parking fee per student per semester.

The county proposed the parking fee last year when SCCC President Gabe Basil sought a $150,000 increase in the county contribution. Basil rejected the suggestion and tapped the college’s fund balance and took other steps to close the gap. The fund balance is currently $2.1 million; the college projects it will use half that amount this year and next year for operations, Meaney said.

“In that case, our fund balance would be dangerously low,” she said.

Hughes said he understands Basil’s position on student fees.

“They do not fall into a student’s financial aid package, which is a reason the college has been reluctant to do that,” he said.

He said Basil has worked to keep tuition and fees to SCCC students “as low as possible and I can understand that.”

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