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December 04, 2016
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Wide-ranging SCCC budget hearing; proposed increase in tuition, salaries

Nick Speranza, chairman of the board of Sullivan County Community College (SCCC), ticked off a list of accomplishments the college has achieved during the past year. Perhaps chief among them was that the college retained accreditation by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. He said that college officials were “very concerned about a visit from the accreditation team” because of past problems, but the visit went well. The team, however, said the college should make a few changes, such as the creation of a strategic plan, which the college did not have.

Speaking at the government center on July 19, at a public hearing regarding the proposed college budget, Speranza spent little time talking about the numbers for next year and, instead, focused on the college in general. He said, for instance, that about 60% of the students at the college come from Sullivan County. And one statistic that he thought was important was that 54% of the students at SCCC represented the first person in the family to attend college. He said this is a “great indication of how students are trying to move forward through education.”

After Speranza, acting president William Murabito took to the podium and talked about the numbers. He said, for instance, that over the past five years, state aid had been decreased by $550 per full-time-equivalent student. This year, Albany has increased aid by $150.

But he also addressed other topics. For instance, he said that there was a lot of talk in the community about the nursing program and that, in the past, nursing grades were low. He said corrective action was taken and “the passing rate now has jumped about 25 points.”

Perhaps making a reference to the tumultuous relationship the previous president, Mamie Golladay, had with the legislature, he said, “We’re about transparency. We’ve shared everything with the public and the campus. It’s hard to believe, but prior to this, there was a lot of information that was held tight, even within the campus. And it’s hard for the people who are key players to manage the campus without having that information. That doesn’t happen anymore.”

The budget calls for increased spending of about $1 million on a budget of about $17 million, with a 7% increase in the cost of tuition.

When persistent college critic Ken Walter spoke, he did not endorse the view that the college was as transparent as it needed to be. He said that the college sent a letter about the proposed budget to the legislature on June 6. On June 14, the board voted for raises for management and confidential employees. He said there was never a discussion about this between legislators and college officials in an open meeting where members of the public could listen to the deliberations.

The county is being asked to give $4 million toward the college this year. Walter said, “Now, we’re struggling, here, on our own budget issues, but the college seems to have none whatsoever.”

The legislature will probably vote on the proposed budget next month.