Dr. Kris Young

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Thinking About Free Community College


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.





  1. Chris Alexander says:

    It is always heartening to hear the thoughts of my College. I just reviewed my account and wondered why I am paying a Health Professions fee, followed by several other fees… After reading the breakdown of what it takes to keep my college doors open, I am grateful and mindful that due to the generosity of many other stakeholders, I can access my nurse training at a reasonable cost. Thanks for shedding some light.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Deborah Dorwitt, MD says:

    My parents lifted our family out of poverty through free higher education at City College of New York and Brooklyn College. I am a graduate of City College of New York and SUNY Upstate Medical University. As an adjunct professor and staff member in the Biology Learning Center – the “Batcavern” at SUNY-Orange, I hear the students’ stories every day. The students are the first in their families to go to college, military vets, immigrants, first generation Americans, retired law enforcement professionals who are starting new careers in the health professions, people who are retraining because they lost their jobs in the economic downfall, and more. I watch them work incredibly hard and I am inspired by them. They deserve all our support.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Naomi Daven says:

    My single mother received her degree in Data Processing from SUNY Orange in 1986. She went on to have a very successful career in computer programming. She served as an example to her daughters of what sacrificing for education can achieve. As an instructor, I have had students dealing with homelessness while attending college. Their courage and commitment is amazing! People are not ignorant to the fact that education is the path to freedom from poverty. The results of “free” tuition are farther reaching than we can predict.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Robert Cacciatore says:

    I am one of those people who has long believed that a fundamental responsibility of government is to provide a robust education for all.

    We know that education makes us better citizens. Among other things, we know it increases our awareness of larger social issues; it compels us to consider the thoughts and ideas of those whose beliefs might differ from our own; and it puts us in a far better position to digest and analyze the complex challenges that face our society. As has been said many times before, education is the great equalizer.

    So if we truly want to combat the ever increasing list of problems born from income inequality (like poor health, crime and justice denied) let us all begin with a real commitment to supporting public education. The time is now!

    Liked by 1 person

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