Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos’s Report “Falling Student Outcomes at Nassau Community College, 2009-2012” is troubling in so many ways. Here are some key points for discussion.
· We believe this report exceeds the responsibility and competence of the Comptroller’s Office. The Campus has been addressing this issue for years, a sobering report was made to the faculty and the trustees this past semester and both the faculty and the Board of Trustees are still waiting for the administration to flush out the details. Proposed action is detailed in our new contract and by the Academic Senate. In addition, we have been examining, proposing and implementing strategies to remedy these issues for years at both the departmental and college wide levels.
· The time period encompasses SIX years of ZERO increases in contributions from the County. The College has not failed the students, the County has.
- For half of the years cited we had CUTS from New York State. We are still below 2007 FTE rates. State Aid for 2015 is set at $2,497 per FTE; an increase of $75 or 3.1% over the prior year. Although this is an increase, the rate is still lower than the rate was in 2007-eight years earlier.
- These reductions and freezes have resulted in an unconscionable increase in the students’ share of overall costs. Regardless of how these funding inconsistencies are explained, the original law was written to provide for 1/3 share of the cost by the State, 1/3 share of the cost by Student and 1/3 share of the cost by the local sponsor. Furthermore, as a full opportunity Community College, the States share should be 40%.
- Cuts in funding have resulted in a 10% decrease in full time faculty, overloaded classes, fewer course offerings, few, in any, tutorial centers and curtailment of hours and services in all student services offices -Admissions, Testing, Advisement, Financial Aid, Registrar , SPS, etc.
- The time period cited in the Comptroller’s report encompasses perhaps the most dramatic crash of the stock market and the economy and its very slow recovery starting in 2008.
- This time period encompasses an entirely new management information system (Banner) and a new Director of the Office of Institutional Effectiveness. Data from the Legacy System is not available for comparison. Perhaps they are sending incorrect information to IPEDS.
- Drop in high school enrollments has affected admissions though we are still over 22,000 students.
- There has been a major change in enrollment from full time to part time students. Part time students are much more difficult to track and have sporadic enrollment and obviously take longer to graduate.
- The Affordable Care Act means that students no longer need to be full time, or even attend college at all in order to qualify for health care.
- In general, the data and the report do not correspond with our experiences with students. We just had a graduating class of 3,300 students, we send thousands of students to private and SUNY colleges every year and they are excellently prepared and successful at their 4 year institutions. Various surveys indicate most students have had a positive experience while attending Nassau.
- Finally, this issue of retention, graduation and transfer are problematic system-wide in Public Education. From Common Core, Mandatory Testing and the Tax-Cap to reduced funding in Higher Education, a decrease in Full Time Faculty, a decrease in services and a never ending crisis of incompetence, transient administrations at every level and ill-conceived initiatives by political operatives in the State Capitol just add to all our additional concerns.
We agree with the Comptroller that a permanent President is needed at Nassau Community College and we are all too aware of the dysfunction on this campus since President Sean Fanelli retired. However, reading the Comptroller’s report and watching the interview, he mentioned that a permanent president would be able to make “unpopular” decisions. This statement belies his understanding of how this campus functions through shared governance, accrediting bodies and a CBA. In addition, just as the College’s “retention report” lacks any details, so does this report. It is unfortunate the Comptroller does not recognize the value of our faculty, the number of Distinguished Faculty, Chancellor awardees and other meritorious achievements. Nor, does he mention the success of our remedial students and honors students as well as the countless initiatives and special programs that so many of us have participated in to insure the successes that have occurred. There is so much more that needs to be discussed and will be discussed in the Fall semester. It is interesting to note, these discussions were planned and agreed to long before the Comptroller’s report. Why then….?
The NCCFT Executive Committee