CATSKLL — New funding opportunities are now available to Greene County students attending Columbia-Greene Community College.

County lawmakers decided to maintain the county’s contribution to the college at its 2020 level, using the $181,600 balance between the county’s 2021 contribution and 2020 contribution for a new donor fund.

The Greene County Cares Fund is divided into four areas: tuition support for Greene County students; satellite programs in entrepreneurial studies to be offered at the Cairo Public Library and Windham-Ashland-Jewett Central School; a transportation fund for Greene County students, which will take the form of gas cards, E-ZPasses, bus and cab fare; and an academic coaching program, which will provide tutoring, mentoring and coaching to Greene County students.

The county’s 2021 contribution to the college’s $17 million budget was approved at about $3 million.

“The college owes Greene County a debt of gratitude for this magnanimous gesture that will help so many students whose lives have been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Columbia-Greene Community College President Carlee Drummer said Tuesday.

The funding will increase access to higher education for county residents, Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said.

“The Legislature developed the Greene Light to Enrollment Fund, as the name suggests, specifically with the needs and aspirations of Greene County residents in mind,” Linger said. “Through this partnership, obstacles can be overcome, new opportunities discovered and career aspirations met – all for the betterment of Greene County residents, businesses, cultural organizations and beyond.”

Drummer presented several ideas to the Legislature during the college’s 2021 budget briefing Aug. 5. In addition to the four areas the county will focus on, Drummer proposed funding for a $25,000 feasibility study to improve the Cohotate Preserve in Athens.

“I would love to see that place transformed,” Drummer said. “I see that not only as a satellite but as an incredible venue for special events for Greene County.”

The property is used as an environmental field station. Water has to be carted in and out of the facility and there is no plumbing on-site, Drummer said.

Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden said the donor fund “wouldn’t hurt” the county’s coffers.

“There’s a threshold in [the budget] to pay the same rate it paid the previous year,” he said.

Greene County Treasurer Peter Markou voiced his support for the donor fund.

“There are three legs to this stool,” he said. “A ready-trained workforce, a community college to train them and a hospital. That’s quality of life. What you’re really supporting is quality of life. You would be remiss if you did not support this.”

In terms of state aid, the college is budgeting for a 25% cut, although it could be anywhere from 20% to 50%, Vice President and Dean of Administration Dianne Topple said.

“We have received no confirmation from the state at this point,” she said.

The college has laid off 16 part-time employees, Topple said, and will evaluate plans in September to cut four full-time positions and furlough three employees to two days per week.

The equipment portion of the budget, slated for $127,050, is where adjustments will be made if needed, Topple said.

“This is where we’ll hold off until spring [if needed],” she said.

In addition to a 2.98% tuition increase, the college also increased its technology fee to $15 per credit hour. The campus is implementing its new software, which is part of its capital project this year, Topple said.

“In addition to the pandemic, we were implementing the new software,” she said. “It’s really exciting but also really challenging.”

The software, called Banner, will create a better student experience, she said.

The college held its first day of classes Tuesday.

Fifteen classes are offered on campus including construction technology, automotive technology, nursing, art studio and science labs, Drummer said.

In a student satisfaction survey administered by SUNY regarding virtual learning, 89.1% of Columbia-Greene students said they were satisfied or very satisfied, Drummer said, ranking above SUNY’s average of 76%.

“I think that speaks very highly of our staff,” she said. “Ninety-five percent of our faculty had never taught a class online.”

Greene County residents interested in applying for tuition support can fill out an application at https://www.sunycgcc.edu/about-cgcc/columbia-greene-community-college-foundation/greene-light-to-enrollment/.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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