Support Community College Funding
As a constituent who cares deeply about public higher education, I am writing to seek your support for SUNY community colleges. Unfortunately, even before the health and fiscal crises caused by COVID-19, our public institutions of higher education were already reeling from years of austerity budgets, even though operational costs continue to rise. Consequently, these institutions have struggled to grow, anticipate emerging workforce trends and remain competitive.
For community colleges, inadequate state support was only one of many hurdles placed before them. In 2020, these institutions had to deal with the state withholding 20% of their TAP allocation as well as approximately $92 million in base aid payments. These problems are compounded by an executive budget proposal that seeks to continue the totally inadequate full-time equivalent (FTE) funding model, which ties state funding to a set amount determined in large part by the number of enrolled FTE students.
This funding methodology was problematic pre-COVID-19 when we were seeing a slow decline in enrollment, primarily due to a declining population, however, this has become very troubling post-COVID-19 now that we are experiencing substantial drops in enrollment. Without some other funding methodology, when the trend reverses and students come back, they may not have viable institutions to return to.
Accordingly, I am asking for you to support a $250 increase in state base aid per FTE. This increase would raise per-student spending. I am also asking for you to support the restoration of the 98% base aid floor that was enacted as part of the 2019-20 budget, but not reauthorized in the 2020-21 budget. These measures will greatly mitigate the impact of state aid lost due to enrollment fluctuations and will provide our community colleges with a lifeline in these very difficult times. Flat funding per FTE student, as proposed in the executive budget, will result in a loss of funding for many of our campuses and a loss of services and programs for the students they serve. I appreciate that the Legislature has provided base aid increases to these campuses over the last five years, however, New York State is not fulfilling its statutory obligation to provide 40% of operating costs for these community colleges.
Unfortunately, the burden of funding these institutions has been increasingly shifting to students. From 2008-09 to 2018-19, SUNY community college students went from paying 40.8% of the operating costs to approximately 41.4%. While the state’s contribution for the same period decreased from 30.8% to 25%. These percentages are the direct opposite of where they need to be and are contrary to the formulas prescribed in the education law. The state should not be paying less and passing the buck to local governments, students and the colleges themselves. It is time for the state to fulfill its obligation to these campuses, which serve as gateways to higher education for hundreds of thousands of students.
I ask that you raise these important issues in conference and urge your leadership to strongly advocate for increased funding for SUNY community colleges during this year's budget negotiations. Thank you for your consideration of this important matter. I would greatly appreciate a response to this email. Sincerely,
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