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Presidential Speeches

07/10/2012
2012-13 Budget Remarks to the Rensselaer County Legislature

Mr. Chairman and members of the Legislature, thank you for the opportunity to present Hudson Valley Community College's budget request for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

As you know, the college plays a vital role in our community and is considered by many as the jewel of Rensselaer County. For nearly six decades, Hudson Valley has delivered affordable, high-quality higher education and workforce training to the Capital Region. In recent years our growth and impact has been tremendous, and today we enroll nearly 14,000 students in credit-bearing courses and another 7,000 students annually in non-credit programs. More than 10,000 individuals take advantage of Hudson Valley's off-campus offerings as well.

This May, I was thrilled to report that 2,325 students and 460 honors students were eligible to graduate – an all-time high.

These numbers place Hudson Valley 44th among the nation's largest and most productive two-year institutions, according to Community College Week.

Also, for the second consecutive year Hudson Valley is in the top 10% of high-achieving two-year colleges nationally and eligible for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. The prize recognizes success in student persistence and academic completion; improvement in outcomes over time; and equity in outcomes for students of all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

While the recognition is nice, Hudson Valley is not content to rest on its laurels. To further ensure the success and retention of our students, the college is launching this fall the new Center for Academic Engagement. Staff at the center will identify and intervene with students at-risk of dropping out or failing, and provide a range of support services, from personal counseling to tutoring.

Additionally, the college will complete extensive renovations to the Marvin Library Learning Commons that also will improve our students' learning and retention while providing an integrated hub for research, study, and support services.

Meanwhile, construction on the new $35 million technologically-advanced science center continues adjacent to the library. When open in the fall of 2013, students will utilize 25 fully-equipped laboratories for the study of biology, chemistry, physics, biotechnology, earth science and forensics. The center also will house 11 classrooms, offices, conference spaces, and a study center. The building will offer students the opportunity to explore emerging technologies and master the use of cutting-edge equipment in preparation for continuing their education at leading colleges and universities throughout the country or entering the workforce in various scientific capacities.

I want to thank you each of you again for your support of this essential project which will serve your constituents for years to come.

The college has continued to advance its academic offerings this year by adding new programs:

Those interested in combining a hands-on automotive degree with a core of business, marketing and sales courses should look into the college's new Automotive Management program, created to prepare students to meet the industry's demand for a business track in automotive education.

Also, the college launched an associate degree in Polysomnography for those interested in becoming sleep technologists. A nationally-recognized profession in health science, Polysomnography offers a salary close to $50,000 per year, similar to other allied health care professions. .

Two of our programs received national recognition this year. Hudson Valley's College in the High School program was accredited by the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships, ensuring that high school courses are of the same high quality and rigor as on-campus courses, and that students are held to the same standards of achievement.

Hudson Valley is one of only 66 two- and four-year institutions in the nation, public or private, to be accredited by NACEP.

Also, the college's Early Childhood associate degree program received accreditation by the National Association for Education of Young Children, confirming it meets the highest standards of professionalism and teaching.

At TEC-SMART, the college drew national attention from ABC World News for its innovative programming, including the Clean Technologies and Sustainable Industries Early College High School offered with Ballston Spa Central School District. In this partnership, 11th and 12th graders are enrolled in both high school and college. They earn their high school diploma and up to 20 hours of college-level credit.

The program was launched last fall with 25 students from Ballston Spa and Saratoga Springs high schools. Approximately 100 students from more than a dozen school districts will take part in the forward-thinking program this fall.

TEC-SMART itself also was honored…with a Platinum LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

The college is one of only seven community colleges in the nation, the first community college in New York State, and one of only four colleges altogether in New York State to achieve LEED Platinum certification.

I am certain that you are proud of and appreciate the education your constituents receive at your community college.

As we continue to enhance our facility and programs, Hudson Valley remains committed to offering financial support to our students. This year, we were given $400,000 from the Second Chance Scholarship Foundation to expand the Second Chance Scholarship program on campus. This donation is one of the single largest scholarship gifts in the college's history and helps students who not only are in great financial need, but who overcome tremendous personal obstacles in order to pursue higher education.

Over a 22-year period, more than 400 Hudson Valley students have received scholarships totaling more than $1 million from the Second Chance Scholarship Foundation.

Collectively, we must ensure that all who have the desire to attend college have the means to do so. That remains our priority.

The college awarded more than $35 million in financial aid last year. 43 percent of our full-time students qualify for TAP funding to help cover the cost of education and 77% of our first-time/full-time students receive some form of aid.

Altogether, nearly 70,000 alumni have chosen to earn an associate degree or certificate from Hudson Valley, and these alumni – some here in this chamber – viewed the college as the key to their future.

How many in this chamber – either you or someone close to you – have benefited from Hudson Valley? I'm very proud to say that my daughter also got a great start at the college this past year. In fact, 95 percent of our students get jobs immediately or transfer directly after graduation, and more than 80 percent of our graduates remain in the Capital Region.

Beyond these impressive statistics on our commitment to student achievement and outcomes, Hudson Valley is enriching the quality and vibrancy of our community. The college welcomes members of our greater community to campus for special events and programming every day.

This year, we hosted world-renowned authors Michael Pollan and Amy Tan as part of the Cultural Affairs program. Pollan is the author of the best-selling book The Omnivore's Dilemma, and spoke to a packed house in the Maureen Stapleton Theatre.

Ms. Tan, one of the most acclaimed and popular novelists of our generation, discussed her three decades of writing and her life as a first-generation Chinese-American.

In the world of athletics, the MAAC Baseball Championships returned to the Capital Region for the first time since 1998 this May with Hudson Valley hosting the four-team event at Joseph Bruno Stadium. And next month, we'll also host the region's World Team Tennis tournament with the likes of Venus Williams, Martina Hingis, Chris Evert and John McEnroe.

The college's economic impact in Rensselaer is noteworthy as well and the connection between education and prosperity is direct and powerful.

Hudson Valley contributes a staggering $970 million in regional labor and non-labor income to the economy of its service area, defined as Albany, Rensselaer and Saratoga counties.

The specific Rensselaer County economic impact is over $300 million dollars in the form of higher taxes and avoided social costs.

All told, our students receive a 22 percent annual return on their investment – earning more than nine dollars in future earnings for every one dollar invested.

There is no doubt that Hudson Valley is a sound investment for Rensselaer County and your constituents. And, we are proud of our extensive contributions to the intellectual, social, and economic fabric of our community.

As you know from my previous presentations to the legislature, the economic and fiscal environment we face today is extraordinarily challenging, and we are facing a "new reality" at Hudson Valley just like other sectors of our economy.

We truly appreciate the past support of the Rensselaer County Legislature. While the budget you are voting on tonight does not include a request to increase the sponsor contribution, we have requested that the County Executive include in her 2013 budget a $100,000 increase.

Over the last decade, stagnant sponsor county support has resulted in a 22% drop in FTE student support. At the same time, our enrollment has grown by 48%.

As a percentage of our total budget, Hudson Valley has the lowest sponsor county support of all SUNY community colleges, and only five times in the past 25 years has the county increased its level of sponsorship. We will need to make up significant ground in the years to come to simply reach the average sponsor contribution in New York State. The average sponsor contribution for the state is $2,148 while the Rensselaer County Contribution is $1,123 per FTE student. That means that we are $1,000 per student below the average in sponsor contribution in the state of New York.

To complicate matters, I am sure you know that county governments have started to challenge the chargeback formula that reimburses us for students attending from outside Rensselaer County.

Counties throughout the state have started viewing community college chargebacks as "unfunded mandates," particularly in Albany County, from where we draw the majority of our students. In fact, the new County Executive has indicated publicly that he plans to significantly reduce Albany County's commitment to Hudson Valley.

As a point of comparison, Rensselaer County's sponsor contribution is $3.2 million. Albany County's chargeback is nearly $10 million. Further, the college's chargeback rate to counties outside of Rensselaer is $2,190 compared to Rensselaer's contribution of $1,123 per resident full-time equivalent student. That is almost a 2 to 1 ratio. (Community College Sponsor Contribution Data)

Over the next six months I, personally, will be meeting with you to further make my case for an increased sponsor contribution and to ask for your support for this incremental increase.

Additionally, the college has also absorbed a 21 percent - or $5.6 million - cut to base state aid during the past three years as per-student funding from the state reached the same level it was 13 years ago, in 1999.

Please be assured we are doing what we can to manage rising costs and budget shortfalls. We continue to focus on enrollment growth, retention efforts, revenue generation and increased efficiency in our operations.

Still, to prevent cutting or eliminating essential academic programs and student services, we have been forced to raise tuition by 24%, or $900, in four years. Right now, student tuition and fees fund nearly half of the college's total budget and we're proposing another increase this year.

The fiscal conditions the college had just a few years ago have changed drastically. As I have told our employees, we are in a "new reality," and we must adjust to our current conditions. We have already cut everything that is discretionary from our budget. The college has also implemented a variety of other measures to address our fiscal challenges, including maximizing instructional loads and delaying renovation projects. We have reduced personnel costs by not filling positions, by delaying searches where possible, allowing for possible attrition in non-instructional lines, and by filling instructional lines with adjunct instructors as a result of vacancies.

We have cut budgets campus-wide and changed hiring practices, among other strategies to maintain the quality and delivery of our broad and necessary offerings. But, we have no more college budget flexibility or creative solutions.

We are proud that the college continues to be a very lean organization. Among all 30 SUNY community colleges, Hudson Valley remains one of the most cost-conscious operations. In comparing, Hudson Valley ranks ninth in the percent of funding allocated to instruction, and we also rank among the lowest of SUNY community colleges in administrative costs per student.

Aside from county and state support, the college focuses on raising private grant support and philanthropic funding to diversify our revenue stream.

Despite a sustained weak economy, the college's Foundation secured nearly $1,255,049 in gifts in 2010-11 to support student learning and underwrite operating costs.

Our 2012-13 proposed operating budget for the college totals nearly $114 million, a 1.3% increase from last year. Rensselaer County contributes $3.2 mil - or 3.4 percent - of our total budget.

The college is proposing a tuition increase of $200 per full-time student and $8 per credit hour per part-time student to the level of $3,900 and $162 respectively.

Over the years, the college has been very conscious of the significant budget constraints faced by Rensselaer County and its municipalities.

Still, our enrollment has grown 48% during the past 10 years, and during the same period, county funding has increased just $100,000. Consequently, the amount of support per student has declined significantly over the past decade.

I'm proud that the college has tightened its belt during a time of substantial growth, but we will ultimately need your assistance to continue to make progress and change in the lives of our students and in our community.

Rensselaer County's investment in education certainly pays off as Hudson Valley graduates move on to gainful employment throughout the county and contribute to the growth of the economy and social wellbeing.

Hudson Valley is also critical to so many local industry workforces, including: health care, human services, construction, criminal justice, teaching, technology and engineering, to name a few. We know that in the coming years, jobs requiring at least an associate's degree are projected to grow twice as fast as jobs requiring no college experience.

Meeting those workforce needs and providing education access for our community should be our priority. Hudson Valley holds the strong reputation as a "first choice" for a quality, affordable education. Whether you are looking to enter the workforce or to move on to a four-year college, we are here to serve you.

Hudson Valley remains a tremendous educational value and provides Rensselaer County families with outstanding educational opportunities right here at home. Hudson Valley Community College is a smart investment that merits – and needs – your support.

It is time for us to get serious about bridging the gap in sponsor contribution.

We are grateful for the many ways you have assisted the college in the past, and in addition to Chairman Martin Reid, I would like to thank all of you who play such an important role in ensuring the college meets its mission and maintains its fiscal strength.

In particular, Judy Breselor, chair of the Education Committee, and her committee members.

Philip Danaher, chair of the Finance Committee and his committee members.

And last but certainly not least, I thank County Executive Kathy Jimino for her ongoing support. I know that we have true friends and allies in Rensselaer County government, and we greatly appreciate your advocacy and belief in what we do.

With your collective support and confidence, Hudson Valley will continue to be an incredible asset for Rensselaer County and its citizens.

Thank you.