Friday, February 4, 2011

Community College Funding in New York

I teach at a community college in New York State.  Our new governor, Andrew Cuomo, has recommended a cut of 10% in community college funding for 2011-2012.  This is in addition to cuts last year and would mean a total cut over these two years of 24% in our State aid.  By law, one-third of our funding comes from the State, one-third from the County (also broke), and one-third from student tuition.

Our college stands to lose 1.5 million dollars, a significant portion of our operating budget with no way to make that up.  People will lose jobs.  Programs will disappear.  Every department and administrative office on Campus is already down by one or two full-time staff or faculty members from where we were a couple of years ago (due to attrition and non-replacement).  Two-thirds of our college faculty are part-time adjuncts teaching one or two classes with minimal pay and no benefits.  This proportion will increase to the detriment of the institution and student learning.

Someone who teaches one class has no incentive to be invested in the academic quality of our courses or programs - they teach a class and leave.  They don't serve on the committees that run our campus, they don't advise and register students, they don't do course evaluations as we're mandated to do by SUNY (the State University of New York in Albany), they don't do program reviews as we're mandated to do by SUNY, they aren't involved in curriculum development, etc., etc., etc.  Full-time faculty are currently working without a contract and  no promotions or inceases in salary last year (even though food, fuel, electric, etc. all cost more this year than they did last year).  More and more is being done by less and less people and morale is in the toilet.

Next time the governor gives a speech and claims to value education in New York, remember that he's full of shit.  For small community college, these reductions are deep and will have long-lasting negative impacts on the communities they serve.  Community colleges are open-door admissions.  We give everyone a chance to better themselves through education - from the 16-year-old homeschooled kid, to the traditional high-school graduate, to the laid-off guy retraining for a new job, to the mom returning to school after her kids are older, to the older retired person interested in life-long learning. We can't just raise tuition to cover these cuts.

New York has been run into the ground over the years by those morons up in Albany.  As taxes go up, and educational and employment opportunities decrease, people are leaving the State in droves (New York is #1 in something - see Top 10 States People Are Fleeing).  I'm polishing up my curriculum vitae, reading the Chronicle of Higher Education classified ads looking for geology teaching positions at community colleges, and will be sorely tempted to apply for any opening up in fiscally-stable states.  As it is, I barely make enough in my present job to adequately support my family here in the mid-Hudson Valley of New York (a couple of years ago now, the local paper had a story stating that you needed to make something like $56,000 / year to live in the mid-Hudson Valley - many of our community college faculty members don't even make that).  Meanwhile, multi-millionaire hedge fund traders in Manhattan pay lower tax rates than most working people in the State (see The Tax Rate Fallacy).

None of this should be unexpected, however, as our society clearly does not value education.


  1. I couldn't agree with you more. I came across your blog when I was researching for an article for my community college newspaper. I am attending a community college to save money, and it is so outraging to see the county and state ripping us off!!!

  2. Very well put! At Niagara County Community College we have downsized our tech faculty from 14 to 3, and our chem faculty from 5 to 1. Sadly, these are the departments that have historically provided the most upward mobility to single moms, unemployed workers, etc.
    -Jerald Truesdell
    Professor of Math and Computer Science
    Niagara County Community College