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C-GCC earns honors for saving students money

The path leading to Columbia-Greene Community College’s Arts Center last August.
August 21, 2019 05:37 pm Updated: August 21, 2019 10:06 pm

GREENPORT — Columbia-Greene Community College was ranked the top community college in the state for saving students money, according to a recent report

WalletHub, a finance research, surveying and review company, evaluated 710 community colleges across the country in terms of cost and financing, education outcomes and career outcomes. Columbia-Greene placed 10th overall and first in New York.

President Carlee Drummer was thrilled with the college’s success.

“We are absolutely elated to be No. 10 and it speaks to the extraordinary team at Columbia-Greene Community College who work tirelessly for student success,” Drummer said

Greene County Treasurer Peter Markou serves on the college Board of Trustees.

“I think it is wonderful news,” Markou said. “It shows the college is working hard to get that spot. It’s a good thing for the college and the region.”

Board chairman Edward Schneier was also pleased by the news, crediting the achievement to the college’s former president.

“We’re very delighted to have our new president, but we have to give credit to Jim Campion for his 19 years of leadership,” Schneier said.

Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell agreed.

“I think it’s great for Columbia County and Greene County and for the students,” he said. “The former president and the new president have worked and are working hard to get and maintain this status.”

Campion retired in July as Drummer made history and became the first female president of the college.

WalletHub has a detailed methodology for its analysis. A college’s cost and financing, education outcomes and career outcomes are weighted equally and are further broken down into a total of 19 metrics. WalletHub compiled data from the National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, Council for Community and Economic Research and College Measures for its survey, according to the report.

Using this information, WalletHub was able to create a series of data sets comparing community colleges in terms of tuition cost, per-pupil spending, graduation rate, student loan default rate and return on educational investment.

Schneier said he thinks the atmosphere at Columbia-Greene is what sets it apart, he said.

“It is very unusual to have a family atmosphere in academic life,” Schneier said, adding that he has spent 50 years in the field.

“It is rare for everyone there — faculty, staff and students — to agree that it is a good place to be,” he said.

Drummer said she thinks the numbers add up at Columbia-Greene.

“For under $5,000 a year, you can have a first-rate education,” she said. “We try to keep tuition as low as possible.”

The college’s graduation rate is 35%, well above the national average of 22%, Drummer said.

“Our retention rate is 64%,” Drummer said, adding that the rate is indicative of academic quality because students want to continue their education.

There are several benefits to going the community college route in addition to the cost-savings, according to the survey.

“They often provide more flexible schedules, smaller class sizes and rigorous coursework,” according to the survey. “These qualities and advantages appeal especially to students who need to balance their studies with other commitments, such as family and work.”

During the 2018-19 academic year, tuition and fees for full-time, in-state enrollment at a public two-year college averaged $3,660 per year versus $10,320 at a public four-year institution and $35,830 at a four-year private school, according to the survey.

Columbia Greene has a unique financial situation, Schenier said.

“We receive one of the smallest state contributions, about 18%,” Schneier said. “But we don’t make up for it with tuition like some other colleges. It comes from the very generous support from the two counties, which we deeply appreciate.”

Murell is proud to support the college, he said.

“We invested in the community college because we think so highly so it,” he said.

Drummer credited her staff’s efforts in making Columbia-Greene a top community college.

“I want to thank all Columbia-Greene Community College employees for the extraordinary work they do on a daily basis to make us the best community college in New York State,” Drummer said. It’s a real tribute to the work the team is doing here.”

Hudson Valley Community College ranked 30th overall and third in New York. Dutchess Community College ranked 17th and Ulster Community College 26th in the state.

New York ranked seventh in WalletHub’s survey for the states with the best community college systems.

For this survey, WalletHub calculated a weighted average of the scores earned by the community colleges in each state and the number of students in each school, according to the report.

To learn more about the survey, visit