FMCC raising tuition by $250

Board approves $20M budget

JOHNSTOWN — Fulton-Montgomery Community College’s Board of Trustees has approved a $20 million budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year.

The budget represents a 3.18 percent decrease over the 2016-17 year, and there is no increase for the amount county sponsors Fulton and Montgomery will pay.

The budget is using $515,632 in fund balance. The operating revenue for 2017-18 is $18.4 million with $1.6 million in grant funds. The state is giving an aid rate of $50 per full-time equivalent student.

There will be a $250 tuition increase for the new school year, taking tuition to $4,450 a year for full-time students.

College President Dustin Swanger said there are two issues affecting colleges across the country: public support for college education and a decline in student enrollment.

Swanger said students are paying more than 48 percent of the budget. He said when community colleges were created, the idea for funding was that students should be paying a third of the cost.

“Neither the state nor the counties are meeting their third in the operating budget,” Swanger said. “So it means we’ve got to put more of a burden onto the students.”

Swanger said that fewer students are enrolling in college across the nation, meaning that there are fewer people to share the cost.

Swanger said he is cautiously optimistic that a decline in enrollment might level off and enrollment may actually increase a bit in coming years.

Enrollment for colleges across the country began declining in 2013.

Trustee Geoff Peck said FMCC has seen an increase in part-time enrollment over the last few years, due in part to students with the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services Pathways in Technology Early College High School Program, which sends students to FMCC starting in their junior year.

Swanger said the $250 tuition increase is frankly more than he would like. He said if the college did have to increase tuition, he would like to see it at somewhere around $100.

The college has also eliminated about 10 positions, mostly through attrition.

Swanger said three people, including a non-teaching faculty member, were informed their positions were no longer being renewed. This represents a $430,000 reduction in salaries.

“Most of the positions that have been eliminated, people left and we didn’t refill them,” Swanger said.

Peck said that 84 percent of the expenses in the budget are for personnel and related expenses, including salaries and benefits.

“That’s where the college should be spending their money. We are a people-centric business serving people, and it’s impressive that so much of our budget is spent directly on staff. It’s creating better students here on our campus.

A new $25 fee has also been introduced for the new school year for those caught breaking the college’s smoking rules.

Swanger said people on campus decided they did not want to go with a total smoking ban, and instead decided they wanted stricter enforcement of policies currently in place. Swanger said the college did not have a fee in place previously for those who violated smoking guidelines.

Swanger said the wildcard in the 2017-18 budget is the Excelsior Scholarship.

The state scholarship will see college tuition cost paid for by the state for students attending a State University of New York college or university. The Excelsior Scholarship only takes affect after the state’s Tuition Assistance Program and Pell grants have been accounted for. Some students at FMCC won’t qualify for the Excelsior Scholarship, since TAP and Pell cover the cost of their tuition.

Swanger said that colleges must freeze tuition at this year’s rate for any student who gets the scholarship. After four years, the colleges can adjust their rates.

“That means those folks who are not eligible might need to make up that difference,” Swanger said. “So there have been a few twists this year, that caused us to raise [the tuition] more than I would have liked to.”

Swanger said the college has budgeted conservatively as long as he has been at the college. The budget will need to be approved by Fulton and Montgomery counties and the SUNY Board of Trustees.

Kerry Minor can be reached at