Students regionwide lobby for future of community colleges

Tyler McNeil
Managing Editor

Hudson Valley and Schenectady County Community College joined forces at the state capitol to fight for state funding.
“Whether it’s Hudson Valley or Schenectady County [Community College], we are on the same page. We are concerned about issues of access for our students,” said SCCC president Steady Moono.

“It seems like any sort of way I can help [Hudson Valley] get funding would be awesome,” said Ben Cerveny, one of four students from Hudson Valley that lobbied last Monday.

This year, community colleges received a zero percent increase base aid in the Governor’s budget. SUNY community colleges are now lobbying to increase state funding $285-per-full-time student. “It can be a hassle, but people go to community colleges because college is expensive and [I] think that [Hudson Valley] in particular is a really good community college,” said Lamecca Thompson, EMT student.

State aid for community colleges remains $178 below the highest level of funding in the 2007-08 budget. “It’s a fight every year for this funding,” said Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy (D-Albany).

State funding for community colleges has decreased over the last four years due to lower enrollment. As a result of reduced funding, the college has halted hiring new staff and made programing cuts to endure rising costs. “We may not be able to provide the kind of services that we would like to be able to do,” said president Drew Matonak.

Matonak hopes raising base aid would keep tuition flat. “We try to hold the line as much as we can on tuition, but it’s becoming more and more difficult,” said Matonak. Last summer, tuition was raised $120 to combat increasing costs.

“I’d rather see more of an investment from the state than to push it on tuition because that really closes the door for some people, and I think we’re trying to look in the other direction,” said Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara (D – Rotterdam) at a 1 p.m. meeting. Over the last two years, Santabarbara has advocated to make public colleges tuition-free for in-state residents.

During a 9 a.m. meeting with Senator Kathy Marchione (R – Halfmoon), Sarah Lounsbury, Hudson Valley biology student, mentioned struggling to pay for tuition and fees on her own. “It is a bit of a struggle, but Hudson Valley is affordable and every single person that I know that has been to Hudson Valley has had a very positive experience,” she said.

Students cover over 40 percent of community college funding in the state. Since the early 1990s, the state has been below its established one-third share funding for community colleges (the other sources of revenue are tuition and county sponsorship). “What was promised [by the state] should be done, but that would require raising revenue,” said Assemblyman Phil Steck (D-Colonie) about raising base aid to catch up with the one-third share funding system.

Meeting with Hudson Valley and SCCC, Steck mentioned support for reinstituting stock transfer tax, intended to raise revenue for budget items such as increased base aid. “Unless we make corrections to the structure of the economy and raise revenue, we’re going to be having this conversation every year,” said Steck.

Last year, community colleges were able to get a $75 increase in base aid from the state budget. “It’s just so much better for community colleges to have the access and resources to give back to the community,” said William Pattee, SCCC student trustee and SUNY Student Assembly member.

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