Tutition increased $120 this year

Tyler McNeil

Managing Editor

Hudson Valley faces its first tuition increase in three years after the Rensselaer County Legislature approved the college’s $110 million budget for the upcoming academic year.

“The concern to taxpayers is holding the budget line at $110 million and not burdening the students with an enormous increase in tuition. It’s on the lower spectrum of the national average,” said Peter Grimm (D-Troy), minority leader in the Rensselaer County Legislature.

As a result of the budget, which was passed with unanimous and bipartisan approval, tuition will increase from $1,990 per semester to $2,050 per semester for full-time, in-state students.

At the budget hearing on July 14 President Andrew Matonak said that although the legislation will increase tuition, Hudson Valley’s tuition remains in the lower half of 30 SUNY community colleges.

While tuition is increasing, the college’s operating budget has remained flat for the last three years and has increased by less than one percent over the last six years, despite rising costs and inflation.

“The fact that we’ve maintained a flat budget while we continue to have these other demands is really a testament to the college employees working as ambitious[ly] as they possibly can be,” said Matonak.

County funding for the college has increased as a result of reforming the chargeback methodology for fees a county pays for students attending a community college outside of their home county.  The reform was issued more than three years ago and enacted by the 2013-14 state budget, which required SUNY and CUNY to create a uniform formula for calculating chargeback rates to “ensure equity between the local sponsor contribution per student.”

Originally planned to phase in with the 2014-15 academic year, reforms have been delayed until the fall of 2016. As of now, new chargeback rates would be five percent during the first year of the plan and gradually increase until going into full effect (100 percent) by the 2021-22 academic year.

Hudson Valley, with 70 percent of its students located outside of Rensselaer County, has been projected to lose over eight percent of its chargeback revenue over the course of the decade. The college’s chargeback revenue from Albany County, which has the largest number of full-time students at Hudson Valley, increased from $4.9 million to $8.8 million between 2006 and last year.

“The change in state legislation with regard to chargeback caused us to really sit down with the county and problem-solve,” Matonak said. In 2013, the college proposed a five-year plan with Rensselaer County to decrease the impact of the chargeback legislation while increasing sponsor contributions.

“The legislation provided us with a window of time to plan ahead,” said Dennis Kennedy, director of communications and marketing. This year, the county will contribute $4.47 million, which is $200,000 more than last year. Beyond the county, $23 million is provided by the approved budget through state aid.

Hudson Valley’s operating budget peaked at nearly $114 million in the 2012-13 academic year, a 65 percent increase within ten years. As enrollment began to decline, the operating budget was cut nearly $4 million for the following academic year.

Rising costs have also presented new challenges to the college. “Hudson Valley has always prided itself at being at the forefront for the use of technology in our programs and for our students, and the cost of technology continues to rise,” Matonak said, addressing the challenge of making upgraded technology available at the college.

Over the last several years, the college has cut back on professional development activities, travel, has left vacant positions open rather than filling them, and cut the hours of adjunct faculty.

“The college has taken steps to strengthen their finances and due to those actions the county will continue to increase its support of the college’s operations,” said County Executive Kathleen Jimino in a statement.

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