NCCFT President Frank Frisenda and Vice-President/Classroom Donna Hope attended and presented testimony at the New York State Senate Higher Education Committee’s public hearings, which were held on campus in the CCB on Friday, November 1. These hearings were part of a statewide series of public hearings to gather information on the cost of Public Higher Education and how it affects students, student debt and the quality of instruction. Also providing testimony were NCC President Jermaine Williams, Director of Financial Aid Patricia Noren, EOP Director William Clyde Jr., and the President of the Student Government Association Bryce MacK. Administrators, Union leaders and Students from across the SUNY/CUNY system also provided testimony. The NCCFT’s statement appears below:
Chairperson Stavisky, honorable members of the Senate and distinguished staff, my name is Frank Frisenda. I am a Professor in the Engineering/Physics/Technology Department and I am President of the Nassau Community College Federation of Teachers. I have already provided extensive testimony to your office on behalf of SUNY Community Colleges and I know that you have heard testimony from other Community College leaders. Today, I am testifying on behalf of the Nassau Community College Federation of Teachers. Of the 80,000 Higher Ed members in NYSUT, the NCCFT has 556 members. I thank you for the opportunity to provide an oral summary today on the cost of public higher education, student borrowing and other challenges to affordability, accessibility and success.
Community colleges are open access and educate all types of students; we help to advance social mobility and are located where students live and work. We often collaborate with regional businesses and employers to develop and provide training to address local workforce needs. Nonetheless, a student’s ability to attend a public institution of higher education, and complete their degree on time, depends on a number of factors — many of which involve personal financial resources coupled with public financial resources in order to provide academic instruction, student services and academic support systems.
State education law stipulates that the state shall pay 40 percent of the operating costs of our open access campuses, however, to date the state has not met this obligation. In order for our campuses to maintain and enhance academic programming and support systems, State funding needs to be increased and as just as importantly, it must be stabilized. Even though enrollment on some campuses has decreased, operational costs have risen. Reductions in community college enrollments are partly due to a decrease in the high school graduating classes and to an economy that is doing well. While population projections indicate a continuing decline, we cannot predict economic fortunes within our communities. However, we can predict the importance of Higher Education and the economic burden that is placed upon our students. This austerity funding model in public higher education has placed mounting student debt upon our most vulnerable students and placed the colleges in a position whereby we have to rely ever-increasingly on adjunct faculty. While there is no question as to the competence of adjunct faculty to deliver quality instruction, there is a marked difference in the value added of full-time faculty before and after class where our role is critical to student success. This includes office hours, knowledge and participation in campus support services both to the internal and external college community.
Our campuses rely on state funding to offer programs and student services that respond to current and anticipated business and social needs, while also attracting potential students who will be first generation college students and those that never dreamed that they would be college bound. In the absence of predictable funding, campuses are forced to raise student tuition and/or limit courses and programs, which diminish our appeal to future students.
The 2019-20 New York State Enacted Budget provided community colleges with the greater of a $100 FTE increase or an established floor of 98 percent of the 2018-19 funding level. We appreciate the Legislature’s work and continued support in including this language, which is a step to help address the issues related to declining enrollment at community colleges. While this year’s enacted budget established a funding floor, unfortunately, it did not insulate all SUNY community college campuses from enrollment declines.
As a result of the current funding model, Nassau Community College will receive almost $1 million less in state operating aid for SFY 2019-20.
NYSUT continues to advocate for the adoption of a hybrid FTE funding methodology, as proposed by SUNY, endorsed by the Community College Presidents and the Faculty Council of Community Colleges. During budget negotiations earlier this year, SUNY and NYSUT reached an agreement on statutory language to codify the hybrid methodology.
This language and the proposed hybrid methodology would provide SUNY Community Colleges with a greater level of support using a three-year average of the FTE dollar amount, rather than the current one-year model to help stabilize the impact of annual enrollment fluctuations and allow us to strategically plan for our future.
As a result of the funding deficit, Nassau has increased its annual tuition which is now $5,600. This is $435 above the maximum TAP limit of $5,165. We raise this issue as we expect additional campuses to also exceed the TAP limit in the near future. While the law regarding the tuition credit only applies to four-year colleges, it is unclear who will be responsible for covering this difference at the community college level. So, as you discuss the TAP Gap and how to address this issue, please keep community colleges in mind.
Without funding to address these operational costs, including the TAP Gap, we are endangering student affordability, success and access to public higher education as well as the quality of the education they receive. Therefore, a significant state investment is needed to reverse this trend and to preserve and enhance the quality of education our students receive and need in order to be the educated citizens of the future who will be tasked with taking care of us all.
Thank you again for the opportunity to speak.