Yesterday I attended the Public Hearing for the 2016-2017 Orange County Community College (SUNY Orange) budget. Our budget was presented brilliantly by our College Controller.
SUNY Orange is fortunate to enjoy one of the most generous sponsors in the state of New York. Orange County historically provides about 30% of our operating revenue.
After making my introductory remarks and returning the audience, I wondered how many outside the auditorium knew the level to which our county, our state, and other sources contributed to the total cost of attending SUNY Orange.
In our proposed budget, we are requesting that the county contributes 29.3% of our operating revenue, we forecast that the state will contribute 21.5%, we budget that students will provide 38.0% via tuition, and the remainder is a mash-up of chargebacks, service fees, self-sustaining courses, and other. With a proposed balanced budget, each one of these incoming dollars is aligned with an projected expense, the vast majority of it in personnel and benefits.
On one hand, it can be viewed that credit students are only paying $0.38 for every $1.00 that it takes to provide a learner-centered, high quality education. What a deal – there’s hardly another like it in all of higher education!
On the other hand, I know from nearly two decades of direct community college experience that for too many community college students, coming up with that $0.38 is an extraordinary struggle. Walk our campus. Hear their stories. You’d be amazed how many of our students are supporting their own children, their own parents, trying to break generations of poverty, and on and on all while they master the Liberal Arts or study nursing or take on any of our other rigorous programs.
Free community college is more than a campaign topic. It begs us to contemplate very deeply what public higher education is and what it should be.