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FMCC requests funding increase from counties

FMCC requests funding increase from counties

Swanger attributed the falling enrollment to an improving local economy
FMCC requests funding increase from counties
At left, Montgomery County Attorney Meghan Manning looks on as District 7 Legislator Michael Pepe makes a point Tuesday night.
Photographer: Jason Subik/Gazette Reporter

JOHNSTOWN -- For the first time in three years, Fulton-Montgomery Community College President Dustin Swanger is asking for more money from the college's sponsor counties, citing declining enrollment as the main reason. 

Swanger told the Montgomery County Legislature's Budget and Finance Committee on Tuesday night that, even though the college is cutting spending by 1.87 percent, and state aid per full-time student is going up by $100, FMCC still needs $50,000 more from Montgomery County -- and a like funding boost from Fulton County -- to help balance its $18.2 million 2018-19 budget. Swanger put in FMCC's request for the $50,000 increase from the Fulton County Board of Supervisors last month, but that request likely won't be voted on until that board's July 9 meeting. 

"Community colleges -- and actually colleges all across the country -- are seeing the same kinds of enrollment declines as we are," Swanger said. "Most of the enrollment decline is in full-time enrollment. Part-time has increased a little bit this past year, but, by and large, you're seeing an increase in part-time enrollment because more people are working and going to school part-time. Because enrollment is declining, we will actually see fewer state dollars overall." 

The $50,000 funding increases from Montgomery and Fulton counties would bring the counties' total contribution to $1,545,821 each. Declining enrollment is projected to result in a $52,000 decrease in tuition revenue and a $63,000 decrease in state aid for the next academic year.

Swanger attributed the falling enrollment to an improving local economy. He said the college has been steadily losing full-time equivalent students since 2013. 

FMCC had 1,721 full-time equivalent students in 2017, which is down 108 from 2016, down 202 from 2015, and down 423 from 2013. 

During the same time period, part-time students increased by 228 -- from 1,057 in 2013 to 1,285 in 2016 -- before dipping by 132, to 1,153, in 2017. 

Swanger said he's cut 25 jobs at the college for a savings of $499,084. Other cuts in his budget include $10,000 from equipment, $8,500 from maintenance and $7,200 from recruitment. He said the salaries and benefits of the college's employees make up about 84 percent of FMCC's budget. 

"State aid makes up about 28 percent of our budget. Tuition makes up about 40 percent of our budget. Chargebacks make up about 5 percent. Each county gives us about 8 percent, and use of the fund balance is about 3 percent," Swanger said. "Other revenue, fees, make up about 8 percent. The local source of money -- from the two counties, the chargebacks and the fund balance -- equals about 24 percent. I think that puts us about on par with other community colleges in our area." 

FMCC's proposed 2018-19 budget will also hike full-time tuition by $150, bringing it to $4,600 per year. The budget also calls for spending $250,613 of the college's fund balance, its reserve of unspent tax revenues. 

The $100 increase in state aid per full-time student brings that figure to $2,847 per student and is projected to increase by $75 in 2019-20 and another $75 in 2020-21. 

Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort told the county Legislature he is in complete support of increasing county aid to the college. 

"I had the opportunity to attend the FMCC graduation this year -- which was fantastic -- with the location at Proctors this year," he said. "Two takeaways that I'd like to share with the Legislature: what an amazing sight it was to see. I believe over 10 kids crossed the stage with an associate degree before they actually got their high school diploma, as part of the P-Tech program, which is phenomenal.

"Also, I think we all know that FMCC has done a great job in adapting to the needs of the community, to know that 100 percent of all of their [radiologic technology] students had jobs at the moment that they were graduating is a testament to Dusty's leadership." 

District 7 Legislator Michael Pepe, chairman of the county Finance Committee, said he believes Swanger's funding request, after years without an increase, "seems to be a reasonable request." 

Legislature Chairman Robert Headwell, who represents District 4 and is a retired high school teacher, said he remains concerned about the price FMCC charges county high school students who participate in the college in high school programs offered at FMCC. 

"If we could reduce that number a little more, I think the end would be so much better because I think so many students would be finishing up their degrees part time at the college," he said. 

Swanger said New York state law requires the college to charge one-third of the college's tuition rate for the high school program. 

"I meet with the superintendents every semester, and they raise the same issue. For our area, even one-third of tuition is expensive to bear that burden," Swanger said. "Our [FMCC] foundation has come up with a scholarship for college in the high school, so that actually cut that [cost] in half. They gave away about $25,000 in scholarship money, and, to your point, we did see an increase in students who wanted to take advantage of that.

"We will look to see what we can do with scholarships to do even more, because it is important."

The Legislature's budget committee voted to add a public hearing for FMCC's 2018-19 budget request to its July 24 meeting agenda.

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