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WE S T CH E S T E R C OMMUN I T Y C O L L E G E

6

WE INVEST IN PEOPLE AND CULTIVATE

TALENT BECAUSE THE CHALLENGES

AHEAD REQUIRE OUR BEST MINDS

WORKING TOGETHER.

Historically, colleges and universities have relied on public

funding and student tuition and fees to comprise much of

our operating budgets. In the past, that was a pretty safe

bet. Not so much anymore. Public policy has supported the

rapid expansion of higher education… families could, at one

time, manage to afford college costs among other household

priorities without a very significant burden.

That was then; this is now. Today, we experience the

implications of shifting dynamics in both areas. Public funding

for higher education has been diminishing in states across

the country, and affordability has become one of the most

important considerations for families as they contemplate

college. Even though it has never been more important to have

a college education, increases in college costs are putting a

degree beyond the reach of more and more families.

In this context, we can be encouraged by actions within our

county and state in addition to our own commitment to

that part of our mission that promises an affordable higher

education. We are, of course, sponsored by Westchester

County, which provides about $30 million to the college’s

operating budget annually without which we would not be

able to extend our access to opportunity for 24,000 students

every year. We appreciate the great support we receive from

our elected officials. They are as proud of this institution as

we are, and ours is a great partnership that benefits the whole

community. It’s a great source of pride to go down to the

County office and to receive the smiles and the accolades for

the work that we do.

Over the past few years the County has maintained effort

on behalf of the college and we’re very appreciative of that

support. But of course, more support for our operating

budget would allow us to expand services and programs

and instructional support to our students. The only actual

increases the college has received have been in support of debt

service and costs for capital improvements on campus. And

again, we’re thankful for those.

With respect to the state, our ongoing advocacy efforts have

actually been effective. Over the past few years those efforts

have led to the restoration of $575 per FTE and millions of

dollars of state aid for the college and our students.

However, this restoration has only brought us back to

reimbursement rates of 2008 and 2009, so we continue to

advocate for additional funds from both the county and

the state to support our mission and provide the resources

necessary to ensure student success well into the future.

Earlier this year, Governor Cuomo announced his plans for an

Excelsior Scholarship eventually covering tuition and fees at

SUNY and CUNY institutions, community colleges included. It

is an ambitious plan, one which has support from SUNY and

many of our college presidents, myself included. The proposal

is an unprecedented pledge of support across all public

institutions within the state.

Yet, we know that we have students and families whose needs

exceed even the resources provided through this proposal.

About 40 percent of our students receive Pell Grants, and

continuation and expansion of this federal program should

be a priority for our lawmakers in Washington, D.C. We are

advocates for year-round Pell for students taking courses

during the summer, since research shows that community

college students who enroll continuously have higher

completion rates. And while many of our students benefit from

the New York State Tuition Assistance Program (or TAP) this

resource is shared with those attending private schools, who

actually receive 40 percent of this valuable

educational assistance.

Many of our students are recipients of generous support, as

we saw from Ashley, from the Westchester Community College

Foundation, which is on track to award a record-setting

$2 million in scholarships this academic year. Those

scholarships are invaluable for what they make possible

among our students. Even with Pell grants, the TAP Program,

and the potential for an Excelsior Scholarship, there is still

so much unmet financial need that support from all sources

remains a critical necessity.