C-GCC classes likely to remain online

GREENPORT — After a semester of distance learning, local college students hoping for a swift return to normal are likely to be disappointed.

Columbia-Greene Community College classes will likely remain online through the fall semester, C-GCC President Carlee Drummer said Tuesday.

Some classes that require hands-on learning, such as nursing, construction, science labs and art, will resume in-person lessons, Drummer said, adding that the college will need to be mindful of social distancing requirements.

“This is still in flux, but that seems to be the direction we are heading in, as are all of the other SUNY colleges in the state,” she said.

Drummer made her comments while speaking in a virtual meeting of the Columbia Comeback initiative, a reopening committee consisting of members of the public and private sectors in Columbia County.

The college is expected to make an official decision about fall courses by June 1.

The college, which receives funding from the state and county, could face severe budget cuts in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Drummer has said the college will have to reduce its operating budget in response to state cuts, which she estimated could amount to $1.4 million.

“The New York state budget has indicated between a 30% and 50% cut to us in state funding if we don’t get federal stimulus money,” Drummer said May 11.

Greene and Columbia counties each sponsor the college to the tune of more than $3 million a year, based on enrollment from each county.

In addition to county funding, 18% of the college’s annual operating budget comes from the state.

SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson has asked all SUNY college presidents to submit their funding and fall semester plans by June 6.

“We have been doing a lot of deep diving into the many options available to us,” Drummer said.

Greene County Legislature Chairman Pat Linger has discussed the college’s funding with Drummer. The initial plan was to reduce Greene County’s contribution by $180,000 for the 2020-2021 budget, he said Tuesday.

That amount is a preliminary estimate and could change depending on how long the shutdown lasts and what the state reductions look like, Linger said.

The college’s current operating spending plan was approved by the Columbia County Board of Supervisors and the Greene County Legislature in the summer of 2019, long before the coronavirus crisis slashed budgets and forced a move to distance learning.

Nearly a third of the college’s funding comes from student tuition and fees. Full-time tuition is $2,412 per semester, according to the college’s 2019-20 budget document.

Keeping enrollment numbers up is a priority, Drummer said in late April, as the spring semester drew to a close.

The college took steps to support students through the transition to distance learning and relaxed re-enrollment policies for students who chose not to complete the spring semester.

The college received $840,707 in federal stimulus funds through the CARES Act, of which $423,354 will be used to support students facing financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CARES Act funding will help students who cannot otherwise get financial aid remain enrolled.

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