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Presidential Speeches

07/11/2006
2006-07 Budget Remarks to the: RENSSELAER COUNTY LEGISLATURE

by Dr. Andrew J. Matonak, President
Hudson Valley Community College
Tuesday, July 11, 2006

INTRODUCTION

  • Mr. Chairman and members of the Legislature: Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you about all the exciting things happening at Hudson Valley Community College.
  • As you know, when I appeared before you last year, I was new to the college and the community. I would like to thank everyone here for the warm welcome I received, for your ongoing support and counsel and your continued commitment to Hudson Valley.
  • Your investment of time, energy, and of course, financial support, makes it possible for the college to remain true to four key words in our mission: dynamic, student-centered, accessible and comprehensive.
  • I am proud that we have such strong partners, and I thank you for the role you play in helping us transform the lives of all of our students – and your constituents.
    • Students like Cindy D'Agostino, who enrolled at Hudson Valley two years ago because she had "reached her ceiling" at her job and knew a college degree would be key to her future.
    • Two years later, the 41-year-old has earned an associate's degree in Computer Information Systems, and now, her opportunities for advancement are endless.
    • Going to Hudson Valley, she told the Times Union, was "the best thing I ever did."
  • Thank you, on behalf of Cindy D'Agostino and the hundreds of other students, for which Hudson Valley is the path to a better career … a better life.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

  • Before I outline key budget highlights and our plans for 2006-07, I would like to share with you the results of a recent economic impact study commissioned by the college.
  • Perhaps the greatest value is the "dividend" Hudson Valley pays throughout the entire Capital Region. The study found that Hudson Valley contributes almost a billion dollars to the vitality of the Capital Region's economy. That's right, a billion, with a "b." Specifically, for Rensselaer County, the overall impact of Hudson Valley is $ 360 million.
  • That impact is made through the college's purchases, wages, and, most importantly, the contributions that Hudson Valley alumni make to the local workforce. A Hudson Valley education allows your constituents to earn higher incomes, which in turn translates into a more robust economy for the county.
  • What do you receive for your investment in Hudson Valley?
  • Hudson Valley generates a 17 percent return on investment for the entire Capital Region. In Rensselaer County specifically, I have another way of saying it: for every Rensselaer County tax dollar invested in Hudson Valley Community College, your constituents receive $13.40 in return.
  • Are your 401Ks that strong? How many of you earn thirteen dollars for every dollar you invest? (President Matonak will ask for a show of hands).
  • If you didn't raise your hand, you should have. You and every one of your constituents benefit, because each of you, representing your constituents, invest in Hudson Valley Community College.
  • But that's not all. Students also benefit enjoying a 22 percent annual return on their investment of time and money. For every $1 a student invests, he or she will receive a cumulative $9.07 in higher future earnings.
  • Finally, as you know, Hudson Valley improves the social welfare of Rensselaer County. Overall, people with higher education are healthier and less likely to depend upon the local, state or federal governments for assistance. They also are less likely to commit crimes, allowing Rensselaer County to spend fewer resources on rehabilitation.
  • What this study shows is clear. Taxpayer benefits far exceed the investment that you make in Hudson Valley Community College on behalf of your local taxpayers.
  • The college needs your continued support in order to fuel a growing Rensselaer County. I want to thank every one of you for making Hudson Valley Community College a priority.

2005-06 CHALLENGES/HIGHLIGHTS:

  • The 2005-06 academic year was very successful, yet very challenging. First, the challenges:
  • Last year, skyrocketing energy costs, coupled with a slight dip in enrollment, required the college to tighten its fiscal belt. Among several measures taken to cut back on the operating budget, we postponed the construction of a planned Fine Arts addition to Hudson Hall, delayed implementation of a campus-wide wireless network until Spring 2007 and left positions vacant.
  • These measures, while significant, did not impact the quality of our learning environment, which always remains our top priority. I would like to publicly thank the faculty and staff for all of their efforts to address these challenges without impacting our students' educational experience.
  • And speaking of students, we enrolled 12,205 men and women in credit-bearing courses or programs for the Fall 2005 semester. As you know, we also serve another 14,000 people who take advantage of the college's non-credit courses and workforce training annually.
  • Although our enrollment remains strong, we did plateau last year. As you know, enrollment drives all aspects of the college's operations, including budgeting, academic program development and strategic planning. We have taken an important step to ensure that we continue to be the first choice for students from Rensselaer County and the entire Capital Region.
  • After a nationwide search, we welcomed Dr. Alex Popovics as our new vice president for enrollment management and student development. Alex will lead the college's efforts to develop a comprehensive enrollment management plan to ensure that we are serving our students, and the community, to the best of our ability.
  • Now, the highlights:
  • I believe we will continue to be an attractive option for students of all ages because of the quality, depth, breadth, and affordability of our programs.
  • Many students come to Hudson Valley knowing that a specific career – whether it is in the health care, technologies or criminal justice field – is in their future. And we also provide students, who are unsure about their path, the opportunity to find their passion.
  • We offer more than 60 degree and certificate programs, and our faculty and staff continually evaluate those programs and their curricula to enhance course transferability and to ensure that our students are receiving the most up-to-date instruction, and that our graduates have the skills that the region's employers demand.
  • It also is important to note that our partnerships – with our academic advisory committee members, employers, other institutions of higher education, and all levels of government – are crucial to the success of our efforts. Key programs developed as a result of those partnerships include:
    • Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology. Beginning this fall, Hudson Valley will train the clean room technicians that computer-chip maker Advanced Micro Devices – and other similar businesses – needs to be successful in this region, and further the growth of Tech Valley. Remember that we already educate the accountants, managers, construction workers, HVAC technicians and other workers needed to support this new industry.
    • Photovoltaic Installation, Maintenance and Repair. This initiative is a terrific example of the college's ability to respond to a changing marketplace. We are proud to join with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to offer this cutting-edge solar cell training, the demand for which will only grow as the cost of traditional energy sources continues to skyrocket and more people embrace this source of renewable energy.
    • Dental Assisting. Responding to the needs of area dentists, the college recently received approval to offer two dental assisting programs – one that will allow currently-practicing dental assistants to prepare for licensure by the state, and the other to train those who have no experience in the field.
    • Pharmacy Technician Training. Working with CVS/Pharmacy, the college created this credit-free program to meet the demand for skilled pharmacy technicians.
  • The college also has established a Business Research and Development Center, thanks to funding from the Rensselaer County IDA and Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno.
  • Working in collaboration with local and regional businesses, human resource professionals and business development agencies, the center will research and forecast the career training needs for the region, then work with employers to develop both credit- and non-credit training to meet those needs.
  • It is my belief that this center will be a tremendous asset to help further grow the Rensselaer County economy.

2006-07 INITIATIVES

  • For the upcoming 2006-07 academic year, our new programs and initiatives include the following:
  • We are developing a certificate program in photovoltaic installation, expanding upon the two courses we now offer to provide even more specialized training in this emerging field. In addition, we are exploring the creation of an energy institute, which will put Hudson Valley on the cutting-edge of alternative energy education and training.
  • We are awaiting state approval of a new Liberal Arts Honors program, which we believe will make the college even more attractive to high-achieving high school students – such as Brian Bradke, who had a 1310 SAT score when he graduated from high school in 1999.
    • Brian recently wrote in a letter to the Times Union: "Like many 17- and 18-year-olds these days, I was not sure what I wanted from my college education right out of high school, and the thought of spending $30,000 a year to figure it out was ludicrous to ask of my parents."
    • "Instead, I enrolled … at Hudson Valley, where I found myself in small classes learning the same basics of calculus, physics and engineering that many of my friends did at Rensselaer and Clarkson …. The difference: I looked around at 20 students per class at a cost of $1,600 per semester versus a general engineering lecture of 200 students at a cost of $16,000 per semester."
    • By the way, after graduating from Hudson Valley, Brian received his bachelor's degree at RPI, his master's degree at Stanford University, and is studying for his doctorate at RPI. You can rest assured Brian will never forget that his path started at Hudson Valley.
  • We also are preparing for the expansion of our Nursing program, thanks to a $572,000 of federal funds announced late last month by Congressman John Sweeney.
  • As many of you know, the college has not been able to accept additional nursing students – even as the region continues to face a shortage of qualified nurses – because it costs the college significantly more to educate a Nursing student than is generated from state and county aid and tuition.
  • This investment will allow us to enroll an additional 32 students who will complete their associate's degree in four years by attending the program during the evening and on weekends. It is our hope that this investment will act as seed money for further investment from the private sector, and hopefully, address this important workforce issue on a more permanent basis.
  • The college was also able to address significant physical plant needs, thanks to your financial support of the college's current facilities master plan.
  • A major element of the plan, the construction of the administration and classroom building, is progressing on time and on budget, and will open during Spring 2007.
  • Another major element of that plan was the reconstruction of the Siek Campus Center, which was in desperate need of renovation. The interior of the building now features a new food court and dining area, and the slate fašade has been replaced with glass, which also lends an airy, open and updated feel to the building.

2006-07 BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS

  • Now, I'd like to share with you highlights of our 2006-07 budget.
  • This budget totals $83.4 million and projects an enrollment of 8,480 full-time equivalent students. It is important to note that a significant portion of our budget funds instruction and academic support, and the budget also reflects a significant increase in our energy costs.
  • As you may know, the 2006-07 state budget includes an increase of $175 in base state operating aid per FTE student. That increase brings state aid for community colleges to $2,525 per FTE.
  • The college also will receive an additional $100 in supplemental aid from the state for high-cost, high-demand programs in the technologies and allied health fields. As you know, two-thirds of our academic programs cost significantly more to offer than the revenue generated. This supplemental aid is a step in the right direction; however it doesn't come close to bridging the significant cost vs. revenue gap for these vital and much-needed programs.
  • I want to thank our state legislators – in particular State Senate Majority Leaders Joe Bruno and Assembly Member Ron Canestrari, chairman of the Higher Education Committee – for their vision and their support.
  • With the leadership of SUNY Chancellor John R. Ryan, we plan to continue talking with our state legislators with the hope that they will continue what they started and fully fund the state's one-third share of our budget next year.
  • But even with these additional allocations, our students still shoulder 45 percent of the cost of their education. That's way too high.
  • Therefore, thanks to the additional state funding, the college is keeping student tuition at its current level – $2,700 annually for in-state students.
  • It is my hope that our advocacy efforts next year will be successful and we will move closer to the one-third state funding, one-third local funding, and one-third students, funding model.
  • Also, for the seventh consecutive year, we are not requesting a sponsor increase to our operating budget again this year. While having sufficient operating revenue is important for the day to day operation of the college, our aging physical plant is a major concern and must be addressed.
  • Therefore, in November, we will be requesting that you support our 2009-2013 facilities master plan.

INFRASTRUCTURE CHALLENGES

  • As I mentioned earlier, the college's current facilities master plan runs through 2008, but we still have significant facility needs. We have been working diligently with our facilities master planners, Clark Patterson, to develop the facilities master plan for 2009-2013, which will require the support of this Legislature in November.
  • Your support of this plan – and your commitment to funding the improvements it contains – will be critical to our ability to serve Rensselaer County and your constituents.
  • Our primary concerns are 1) the need to address the demand for additional parking and 2) the deterioration and inadequacy of four key classroom buildings – Amstuz, Brahan, Lang and Higbee – which date back to 1961.
  • I have heard over and over this past year that Hudson Valley is the gem of Rensselaer County. In order for us to maintain our distinguished reputation for academic excellence, the quality of our academic buildings and facilities must equal the quality of our instruction and sophistication of our technology.
  • I'm sure that you are well aware of our parking problem, but I would like to invite all of you to tour our facilities so that you can see first-hand the state of these academic buildings.
  • We will be asking for your help to ensure Hudson Valley remains a place of which we all can be proud.

CONCLUSION

  • The budget before you tonight will allow us to provide continued access to an affordable, high-quality education for our current and future students.
  • We are proud that Rensselaer County is our sponsor – and you should be proud of the commitment you have made to Hudson Valley Community College. In order to maintain and extend the college's accomplishments, we need your continued confidence and support.
  • In addition to Neil Kelleher – a distinguished Hudson Valley alumnus, chairman of this Legislature and a member of its Finance Committee – I would like to offer special thanks to the following legislators, each of whom plays an integral role in ensuring the college maintains its fiscal strength:
    • Nancy McHugh, chair of the Education Committee, and her committee members, particularly Jim Brearton, who also is a member of the college's Board of Trustees.
    • Rich Salisbury, chair of the Finance Committee, and his committee members.
    • Additionally, it is my great pleasure to have a wonderful and supportive partner in County Executive Kathy Jimino and her talented staff.
  • I am truly grateful for your ongoing commitment and stewardship, and I ask your support of the college's operating budget for 2006-07. Remember, when you vote to support our operating budget this evening and you vote to support our facilities master plan in November, you and all of Rensselaer County receive much more in return for your investment. Thank you.