Nassau County legislators passed the 2023 NCC budget yesterday, June 27, and it includes an astounding 1,000% increase for “contractual services,” including “workforce development” and a 26% increase in administrative employees. NCC Interim President Maria Conzatti described a shift in NCC to “vocational” in such areas as “plumbing, welding, and HVAC” —programs not currently taught at NCC, not proposed in the Academic Senate, not in the Strategic Plan, and for which there is no data demonstrating a demand.
Suffolk Community College offers some of these vocational programs, and it appears there may be no more than 80 students enrolled across six programs. https://ce.sunysuffolk.edu/workforce-training/. Moreover, a vocation, for example, such as plumbing is not a truly terminal certificate. An apprenticeship, journeyman and, eventually, a licensing exam, are also required before the “real” money is made. A student graduating from a community college program would earn about $16/hour or about the same as working at the local grocery store. The legislators were told that the demand for these vocational programs was based on “phone calls” from an unspecified number of callers asking if NCC offered these programs. It should be noted that a number of years ago the College expended precious resources to retrofit part of the C Cluster for a plasma welding program, and it never ran. Why? There was no demand, no enrollment.
Interim President Maria Conzatti also emphasizes new high school “dual enrollment” courses and summer camps for high school students as part of the College’s “vision” for a new NCC future. Omitted is a commitment to focus on growing NCC’s higher education degrees, certificates, and initiatives.
NCCFT Pres. Siminoff presented concerns prior to the June 27th meeting to Maurice Chambers, of the Office of Legislative Budget Review, and Minority Finance Director Michelle Darcy, and then at the June 27th meeting of the full legislature and asked that the College be permitted and encouraged to submit a supplemental budget. In her letter to Chalmers and Darcy, Siminoff observed that while NCC’s retention rate is high, among the top three for New York’s community colleges, enrollment has fallen more at NCC than at other community colleges, and far exceeds Suffolk Community College’s enrollment decline.
Siminoff noted that NCC is shifting away from its mission as a transfer institution to four-year schools, not meeting the demands of our academic departments, and failing to focus on innovative programs proposed by faculty or growing in-demand programs such as Allied Health Science, Nursing, and Theater and Dance among other departments. Just one example is that enrollment in the department of Theater and Dance rose dramatically last year, about 19%, yet the department currently has NO full-time teaching faculty, which imperils its accreditation. In fact, as another recession possibly looms, when community colleges often see increases in demand, NCC would be wise to be building, not cutting back, its academic programming. The #nccfor2023 campaign, asking College trustees and County legislators to preserve and build NCC, has gathered 627 signatures to date. (A rally was also planned for June 27 in front of the Nassau County Legislature, but had to be canceled due to heavy rain throughout the afternoon.)
Siminoff expressed concern that in the 2023 budget the College continues to add to its number of administrators (referred to in the budget as “ordinance staffing”). Again, no information or data has been presented to justify the current 26% increase in administrative staffing.
Last year, Nassau County’s Office of Legislative Budget Review stated, on reviewing the 21-22 NCC budget, that the College must formulate a plan to remain sustainable after federal HEERF funds are exhausted. To date, there is no plan. And, inexplicably, despite a $20 million deficit which will be filled using our final HEERF funds, Dr. Conzatti stated the college does not need an increase in the County’s support for its operating budget.
In response to concerns about our physical plant, Dr. Conzatti responded that the college has a plan to address the disrepair of the campus as well as a plan to spend down the capital funding. President Siminoff has requested copies of the relevant documents.
Here is the agenda and video of the meeting: https://nassaucountyny.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_Meeting.aspx?ID=2035
We need to affirm, congruent to our college’s mission statement, the difference between “education” and “training.” Education is as our mission states: enrichment, pursuit, imagination, creativity, craft, diversity and sharing. Training, is limited to learning job-specific skills. There is a danger of trying to market ourselves as the general store for both education and training. In our New York metropolitan area, with so many schools to choose from, we may be identified with one specific thing we provide at the exclusion of the other. What do we want to be—a trade school or a degree-granting college?
Approving this once again underfunded budget is a slap in the face to the students, professors, everybody.