PLATTSBURGH — If Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget proposal is realized, Clinton Community College will have lost 25 percent in state funding over two years.
Under former Gov. David Paterson, spending reductions to the State University of New York left the system's community colleges with a 15-percent cut in aid, while the current administration's budget would syphon another 10 percent.
"A 25-percent cut in two years is harsh," said CCC President John Jablonski.
Cuomo's proposal slashes $115.4 million from SUNY's budget, or 10 percent, to help grapple with a $10 billion deficit.
Chancellor Dr. Nancy Zimpher is pushing for phased-in tuition increases, but the governor believes SUNY can handle the cuts without raising its prices.
"We understand the governor is dealing with an incredibly difficult economic situation here in New York state," Jablonski said. "All of us are sensitive to that and want to do what we can to help him achieve a stronger economy.
Cuomo's proposed decrease in base per-student operating aid for community colleges would total roughly $300,000 for CCC.
The good news is the school's enrollment was up 10 percent last year and is on the rise this year, too, though not by as much. Still, enrollment increases won't make up the difference.
Clinton County also provides CCC a portion of its funding, but that entity is feeling the economic pinch, too.
CCC could raise tuition, as it did last year with a 1.7-percent jump, placing the price tag at around $3,600 yearly. Unlike Plattsburgh State, which depends on a SUNY-wide tuition increase approved in Albany, CCC can raise its prices with the blessing of its trustees.
"We certainly don't want to make a drastic increase in tuition next year," Jablonski said. "Perhaps there will be some discussion on a small increase in tuition. If that comes to pass with higher enrollment, that could allow us to get through the budget year."
College officials will also apply reserve funds toward the budget.
"It is a little bit too early to say this year how much of the reserve funds we might use," Jablonski said. "But we also recognize that pattern is not a long-term strategy. It is a way for us to help cushion the blow of a tuition increase."
CCC aims to keep college accessible and affordable, Jablonski said.
"Unfortunately for us and students, we won't get a lot of help from New York state."
A BIG CUT
North Country Community College stands to lose between $350,000 and $400,000 under Cuomo's budget.
"That is a big cut," said NCCC President Dr. Carol Brown. "We don't know yet where it would impact but that it would have an impact."
The school is already considering whether to fill vacancies. Other budget factors include utility costs and health-insurance rates.
"Like everyone else, we recognize the seriousness of the situation fiscally in the state," Brown said. "I would hope perhaps that consideration be given to here — and all community colleges — to the important work we do in education and workforce development and economic development."
The situation is significantly worse for Plattsburgh State, which is faced with a $1.4 million cut on top of the $2.5 million reduction carried over from last year.
"We did a pretty good job in the fall and were able to identify a little over $1.8 million in permanent cuts," said John Homburger, vice president for administration and business affairs at Plattsburgh State.
"We are back in a very serious position and are in review of everything programmatically."
Plattsburgh State is offering another early separation incentive plan for anyone who has worked for the college 10 years. Roughly 18 faculty and staff members took advantage of the last version of that.
"We have entered what I believe to be as close to a hard freeze as we can get without tying our hands completely," Homburger said.
University officials should know what they are cutting by April 1, he said.
"Our emphasis still stays the same. We are doing everything possible to preserve the quality of education."
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