One thing is clear: Columbia-Greene Community College is in a tenuous financial situation due to the coronavirus outbreak, slipping enrollment and budget cuts.
There has been no definitive information on what state aid will be available, Columbia-Greene Community College President Carlee Drummer said Wednesday. “We can’t even speculate about when that might be coming.”
Not knowing how much state aid — which constitutes one-third of the college’s total operating budget — will arrive makes fiscal planning nearly impossible at a time fraught with so many unknowns.
College officials were anticipating to hear more about state aid in early July, but no news was forthcoming. “We don’t really have any guidance from SUNY about when they might expect an answer,” Drummer said.
Columbia and Greene counties make one-third of the financial contributions to the college based on student enrollment. The other two-thirds of the college’s financial support come from state aid and tuition and fees. College officials have talked with Greene County legislators and Columbia County supervisors about supporting the college at the same level as last year. There is no simple answer.
The college’s immediate response was to reduce staff by laying off 16 part-time employees. There are no plans to cut class offerings at this time. But cutting academic programs could put the college in additional jeopardy because it might affect enrollment, which would have a ripple effect on the budget.
Another idea that has been proposed is a modest tuition hike. Again, increasing the cost of education at a time when so many people are unemployed could backfire on the college.
Another thing is clear: College officials have a lot of work to do before the fall semester, which could be another period of remote learning and empty classrooms. COVID-19 is too fickle for us to be sure of anything. Good news about state aid could be a start.