Submitted by Howard B. Owens on May 22, 2014 - 12:06am
Legislators in Albany are apparently intent on changing the formula for how counties pay for their students to attend out-of-county community colleges and that has GCC President Jim Sunser a bit nervous.
To help hedge against the proposed change, he's asked county legislators to boost the county share of GCC funding from just over $2 million to slightly more than $2.5 million.
The proposal caught members of the Ways and Means Committee a little by surprise Wednesday and they asked for more time to study the request and have County Manager Jay Gsell report on any potential county budget impacts.
The committee will consider the proposal again at its June 4 meeting.
"Since we have until the end of June, rather than make a quick decision today, I think we need to see how this fits and how we can make it fit," said Ray Cianfrini, chairman of the County Legislature.
In New York, each community college has a sponsoring county and each sponsoring county supports the college by paying a "county share" for local students to attend.
Sunser said that while Genesee County is very support of GCC, the local county share is also among the lowest in the state.
When students from one county elect to attend a community college in another county, the home county pays that other community college a fee based on a state-mandated calculation.
For example, when a student in Perry decides to attend GCC, Wyoming County must pay a fee to GCC. When a Genesee County student decides to attention ECC, Genesee County must pay a fee to ECC.
The calculation of those out-of-county fees is based on how much per student the sponsor county gives to its own college.
In years past, that per-student fee could be calculated using revenue sources other than the county government's direct contribution. It could, for example, include revenue from facility rentals and revenue allocated from reserves.
Community colleges have been warned, Sunser said, to brace for a change in the formula. The new formula would eliminate all revenue sources from the calculation except the direct county contribution.
The proposal almost made it into the current state budget, but was set aside at the last minute for at least one more year.
If it had passed this year, GCC would have lost $1.7 million in revenue.
The proposed increase of $500,000 in county share would change the calculation so that neighboring counties would continue to pay what they have been paying.
Sunser said GCC serves a larger, more sparsely populated area than any other community college in the state. With campuses in Medina, Albion and Lima, there are college students throughout the GLOW region who are dependent on GCC for their education.
GCC's proposed $38.7 million for fiscal year 2014/15 includes a $75 per semester tuition increase for full-time students and a $5 per credit hour increase for part-time students.
The tuition at GCC would still be the most competive in WNY.
"We're a very frugal institution," Sunser said. "We have one of the lower budgets in New York."