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Presidential Speeches

07/11/2007
2007-08 Budget Remarks to the Rensselaer County Legislature

Dr. Andrew J. Matonak
President, Hudson Valley Community College
Wednesday, July 11, 2007 

INTRODUCTION

  • Mr. Chairman and members of the Legislature, thank you very much for this opportunity to visit with you to summarize our budget request and to update you on the past fiscal year's activities at Hudson Valley Community College.
  • Before I begin, it is great to see Jim Brearton among us this evening.
  • We all know that Hudson Valley is a very special place. I believe that we are the finest community college in the state of New York. And it took a lot of people to build this great institution.
  • It took visionary state leaders who understood the impact this institution had on the Capital Region. It took a marvelous faculty, staff and administration who were student-centered and responsive to community needs. It took the leadership and commitment from our Board of Trustees. And it took tremendous support and advocacy from our County Executive and our Rensselaer County Legislature.
  • We are proud of our accomplishments, but, you know what? We're not done yet. The future for Rensselaer County and the Capital Region is very bright, and one thing is absolutely clear. We are going to need a highly trained workforce to realize our future. Hudson Valley is the engine that provides the workforce that fuels Rensselaer County.
  • Imagine for a second what Rensselaer County would be like if Hudson Valley had not educated 300,000 individuals over these past 54 years?
  • Our graduates are making a difference in our community. Our Criminal Justice graduates serve and protect our community. Our Technology graduates reshape and reinvent our community in a variety of fields. Our Business graduates develop and invest in our community, leading our financial institutions and maintaining the networks and infrastructure for Tech Valley. Our graduates transform our community in ways both large and small and fuel Rensselaer County's economy to the tune of $360 million dollars annually.
  • Our vision for Hudson Valley is "to deliver what the future demands," and it will take all of us working collectively to realize this vision.
  • I am proud that we have such strong partners in our efforts that truly strengthen the fabric of our community and improve our quality of life. I thank you for your time, energy and financial support that has been critical in helping us transform the lives of all of our students – and your constituents.
  • The influence of Hudson Valley Community College truly extends beyond the confines of its physical campus, hence our theme for the budget before you tonight: excellence without boundaries.
  • The budget before you is the culmination of several years of strategic planning, both fiscal and more importantly, academic.

2006-07 HIGHLIGHTS

  • Before I outline key budget highlights and our plans for 2007-08, I would like to share with you some highlights from the academic year that just ended.
  • I'll begin with commencement. We celebrated three milestones when the Class of 2007 graduated in May:
    • First, this year's graduating class was the college's largest ever, with 1,831 earning associate's degrees or certificates.
    • Next, the college graduated its first class of students specifically trained to work in the emerging field of nanotechnology with associate's degrees in semiconductor manufacturing technology.
    • And finally, the State University of New York reached the one-million mark in community college graduates. That's right – the lives of one million men and women have been changed for the better at SUNY's 30 community colleges, with nearly 65,000 of those graduates calling Hudson Valley their alma mater.
  • Our enrollment remains strong: in Fall 2007, we enrolled 12,119 full- and part-time students and this past spring we had our highest-ever Spring semester enrollment.
  • During the 2006-07 academic year, the college approved 113 curricular changes – a 45 percent increase in activity during the past five years. Each of those actions – ranging from changes in degree requirements to approval of new associate's degree programs – is designed to ensure that our programs and curricula remain relevant and up-to-date.
    • For example, we worked closely with the region's insurance providers – Rose and Kiernan, Marshall and Sterling and others – to develop an option within our existing Business Administration associate's degree program that is specifically designed to prepare students for jobs in the insurance industry as underwriters, appraisers and other insurance claims positions.
    • I'm excited about this opportunity to help grow an industry that employs more than 13,500 people in the Capital Region alone by providing the well-trained workforce it requires.
  • The college's reputation as a leader in workforce development also extends to our technology programs.
  • Through a strong partnership with New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and local and national photovoltaic manufacturers, Hudson Valley has emerged as a leader in developing credit and non-credit instructional programs in the areas of photovoltaic installation and energy efficiency.
    • Just last month, our Building Systems Technology Department Chairman Joseph Sarubbi – a resident of East Greenbush – testified before a Congressional subcommittee about the critical need for a national investment in education and workforce training programs, such as the Photovoltaic Installation Certificate program that Hudson Valley will offer this fall.
    • The college is currently developing training programs for the installation and maintenance of geothermal heat pumps and wind energy systems and will offer an alternative fuel certificate program beginning in Fall 2008.
    • As the cost of traditional energy sources continue to skyrocket and more people embrace renewable energy technologies, Hudson Valley is committed to providing the education and training that is necessary to allow these exciting new initiatives to flourish and change the way we as a nation produce – and consume – energy.
  • At Hudson Valley, we serve more Capital Region – and more Rensselaer County residents – than any other college in the region. While our on-campus enrollment has remained steady, we have seen dramatic growth in our online course offerings and enrollment.
  • In just the past two years, for example, headcount enrollment in Fall online courses has increased 23 percent and the number of course sections have quadrupled. Full-time enrollment in online courses has increased 62 percent.
  • And the college also continues to grow its off-campus offerings:
    • We offer credit courses at nearly 20 locations, including the Arts Center of the Capital Region, East Greenbush YMCA and for the first time this spring, the Troy Housing Authority.
    • We collaborate with 28 high schools – 12 in Rensselaer County alone – to offer juniors and seniors the opportunity to earn college credit during their regular school day, which gives them a jump start on their post-secondary education.
    • And for the first time this summer, the college has partnered with three high schools – Troy, Maple Hill and Colonie Central – to give students from 20 different school districts another opportunity to earn college credit during the summer. 

2007-08 INITIATIVES

  • This budget further expands the college's academic offerings. Key new programs include:
    • Our new associate's degree in Architectural Technology complements our Civil Engineering Technology program, which has long offered electives in this area of study.
    • Our new associate's degree in Biological Science is a rigorous program and an ideal start for students who wish to pursue a career in medical science, dentistry, veterinary science, pharmacy or scientific research.
    • Our new associate's degree in Gallery Management builds upon our strong Fine Arts program and is designed for students who have a keen interest in art, but not necessarily a desire to become an artist.
    • Our new associate's degree in Criminal Investigation is designed for students who wish to enter the law enforcement field immediately upon graduation. It complements the college's Forensic Science Studies program, which prepares students exclusively for work in a laboratory environment.
  • The budget also provides for upgrades in campus security, including the hiring of two additional campus safety officers and upgrade of the college's public address system. In light of the tragedy this spring at Virginia Tech, it is important to note that the college has an Emergency Preparedness Plan in place that provides guidelines and protocols for dealing with any type of incident that may jeopardize the health, safety and welfare of students, faculty, staff and visitors.
  • Rest assured that the safety and security of everyone on the Hudson Valley campus will always be our highest priority.

2007-08 BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS

  • This budget was not developed in a vacuum. Our faculty and staff have analyzed trends in the marketplace and academia and sought insight and expertise from those who serve on our advisory committees, all toward the ultimate goal of creating a budget that would allow this college to continue a tradition of providing high-quality education at an affordable cost – for both students and taxpayers.
  • Now, to the bottom line: our 2007-08 budget proposal totals $87.1 million and projects an enrollment of 8,770 full-time equivalent students.
  • It is important to note that our 4.5 percent budget growth is one-half of one percent below the Higher Education Price Index that now stands at 5 percent. The Higher Education Price Index (HEPI) is an inflation index that is a more accurate indicator for higher education than the Consumer Price Index.  
  • HEPI is a tool that enables colleges and universities to determine increases in funding necessary to simply maintain the status quo — or the real purchasing power of our institutions. Using the Higher Education Price Index as a benchmark provides the college a barometer for assessing the appropriate growth of the college budget. During the past decade:
    • The growth in the college budget was below HEPI six out of 10 years.
    • Our tuition growth was below HEPI six out of 10 years.
    • State aid has been below HEPI six out of 10 years.
    • And we have not asked for an increase in sponsor contribution for operating aid for eight consecutive years, because we need your help with facility needs.
  • In other words, for every year that our budget, tuition, state aid or sponsor contribution does not equal the Higher Education Price Index, the college is actually realizing a reduction in real revenue.
  • It is quite an achievement that this institution has been able to keep a handle on costs while, during that same period, enrollment increased by 25 percent.
  • This budget includes an increase of $125 (4.9 percent) in base state operating aid, bringing state aid to community colleges to $2,675 per FTE. It also includes a modest tuition increase of $100 (or 3.7 percent), with the recommended rate for in-state tuition totaling $2,800 annually.
  • This is the first tuition increase in two years. As you know, the college has always done everything it can to hold the line on tuition costs, and that is evidenced by the fact that once again Hudson Valley will be one of three community colleges in the state with the lowest tuition.
  • Access is key to our mission at Hudson Valley. The college disbursed $23.4 million in financial aid this year, and the college's charitable foundation also administered 128 scholarships to defray the cost of education at Hudson Valley. The Hudson Valley Community College Foundation disburses more than $285,000 in scholarship aid to students annually.
  • As I mentioned, no sponsor increase in operating aid is being requested again this year. The county's contribution to this budget remains at $3.1 million for the eighth consecutive year. We have been able to accomplish this primarily because our enrollment during that same period grew by 25 percent.
  • However, as you know, the college's enrollment has leveled off the past few years, simply because we are at a saturation point during our peak times, due to lack of parking and maxed out academic classrooms.
  • During my address last year, I mentioned that the college's aging facility has significant needs. In March, we invited all of you to tour our facilities so that you could see first-hand the state of our academic buildings, and we presented our facility needs to you.
  • We also indicated that if Hudson Valley is to continue to be the economic engine that drives Rensselaer County, we will require the financial support of both this Legislature and the County Executive to address these significant facilities needs. Your financial support in capital is critical to our ability to serve Rensselaer County and your constituents.
  • The college has been creative in identifying alternative funding to address our facility needs. In May, we presented a proposal that the college will build a parking deck that would not require an additional dime from county taxpayers. However, while the college has addressed the parking issue, we still need your financial support to address the deterioration of Brahan Hall.
  • During the next several months, we will continue our discussions in an effort to convince you and the County Executive that an investment in the facilities at Hudson Valley is an investment in the future of Rensselaer County.
  • Remember, without your financial support, we can't even get in line to compete with the other SUNY institutions for state capital dollars.  

CONCLUSION

  • This budget will allow Hudson Valley Community College to maintain its distinguished reputation for academic excellence and outstanding service to the community.
  • We are proud that Rensselaer County is our sponsor – and you should be proud of this institution that has had such a tremendous impact on you, your families, and the lives of your constituents.
  • In addition to Chairman Neil Kelleher, I would like to thank all of you who play an integral role in ensuring the college meets its mission and maintains its fiscal strength.
    • In particular, Nancy McHugh, chair of the Education Committee, and her committee members, including Jim Brearton, who also serves on the college's Board of Trustees, and Hudson Valley alumnus Peter Grimm.
    • Rich Salisbury, chair of the Finance Committee and his committee members.
    • And last but certainly not least, I thank County Executive Kathy Jimino and her talented staff. I know that we have strong advocates in both this legislative and executive branch of county government, and we do appreciate your leadership.
  • With your collective support and confidence, Hudson Valley will continue to be the gem of Rensselaer County and the primary driver of the Rensselaer County economy.
  • We are truly this community's college and I thank you for your partnership in serving this community so well.
  • Thank you. I would be happy to answer any questions.