OCC proposes budget, includes modest tuition increase
As budget season continues, the Onondaga County Legislature will look to approve Onondaga Community College’s budget next month.
The college’s budget proposal includes mild tuition increases and plans to make “college-wide enhancements” or improvements to classrooms and learning spaces for the school. The $61 million proposal features $17 million in state aid and $9 million in county operational funding. OCC president Warren Hilton expressed his gratitude for the recently passed state budget, which is providing significant funds to community colleges like OCC across the state. He said this has been long awaited.
“We did receive 100% of the funding floor from the state, which we have been advocating and asking for,” Hilton said. “I think that was a win for community colleges across the state and certainly for us.”
While the $9 million in support from Onondaga County remained flat, OCC does plan on increasing tuition costs, something Hilton said had a lot of thought put into it.
“We were very analytical about looking at how we might raise tuition,” Hilton said. “Instead of doing what some institutions do, raise tuition 6% in one year, [we’re] looking at a smaller increase, as not to hurt our enrollment and our students.”
Hilton said this increase was carefully considered to continue leaving most OCC grads debt-free upon graduation.
“In the fall, SUNY put out a statistic that something like 65% of community college graduates graduate with no debt, and we are certainly in that ballpark,” Hilton said. “And so, we need to continue to market that message to our community.”
Hilton highlighted that tuition raises would be just $50 per semester for full-time students or about an additional $4 per credit hour. Hilton said it is important for OCC to remain affordable for its students.
“We’re no different from any other community college,” Hilton said. “Our students have challenges. So we’re very focused in on being affordable.”
While enrollment levels were down for the college, an early retirement initiative was offered to 51 eligible faculty members. Twenty-eight faculty members took the deal, but enrollment increases and growing tech and nursing programs might require some positions to be reinstated. Hilton answered questions about the incentive program, stressing replacement would only be made in areas seeing growth.
“We’re not replacing in areas where we see enrollment declines,” Hilton said.
The vote will be taken up in the county legislature's next session on June 6.