NCCFT Vice Presidents Donna Hope and Dawn Smith headed up to Albany, along with our Political Action Committee chair Uzo Osuno, to meet with state legislators to lobby for fair funding for community colleges. Prior to the meetings with members of the House and Senate during the two-day lobbying event, NCC President Dr. Jermaine Williams and NCCFT Vice President Donna Hope attended NYSUT’s Community College Luncheon. In attendance was Johanna Duncan-Poitier, SUNY’s Senior Vice Chancellor for Community Colleges, other members of SUNY’s senior staff, other SUNY community college presidents, NYSUT’s President Andy Palotta, and members of NYSUT’s senior staff.
When we met with the legislators over the two days of lobbying, we had two main talking points:
- Fund community college’s fairly
- Close the “Tap Gap.”
We presented our message in two parts. First, we made sure to thank the legislators for adding language to the 2019-2020 budget which established a funding floor of either 98% of a community college’s previous year’s budget or the FTE amount, which ever was greater. Then we reminded our legislators that State Education law requires them to fund 40 percent of a community college’s operating costs—an obligation the state has never met. We also asked the legislators to support a new, hybrid funding formula for community colleges, which would provide a greater level of support for us by using a three-year average of the college’s budget, or the FTE dollar amount. They also asked that the FTE dollar amount be raised by $250.
Regarding the TAP Gap, this is what we made sure our legislators understood: Since the state is only paying about 24% of NCC’s operating costs and Nassau county is only paying about 26%, our students must pick up the remaining costs. The tuition increases NCC has been forced to put into effect over the past years have raised the current yearly cost of the college to $5600. TAP, however, max’s out at $5135, leaving students to pay the addition $400+ dollars, an amount that is out of reach for far too many of them.
NYSUT President Andy Pellotta testified regarding this problem, and he made a point of emphasizing its negative impact on community colleges and our students:
When we have discussed the TAP Gap in the past, we focused on four-year campuses. Unfortunately, this is becoming an issue at five of SUNY’s Community Colleges (Clinton, FIT, Nassau, Orange and Suffolk) as tuition for the 2019-20 year exceeded the TAP limit of $5,165. We raise this issue because we expect this issue to impact additional campuses in 2020-2021. Since 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. If we use recent history as our guide, we strongly suspect that our colleges will be forced to bear the brunt of this latest fiscal challenge.
You can read President Palotta’s full testimony here.
All the legislators and/or staff we spoke to agreed that higher education needs to be a priority. We need your help to make sure they put those words into action. Please use this link to email your state legislature to ask them to support public higher education.