Oneida executive bemoans how community colleges paid for

Published Oct 18, 2018 at 4:00pm

Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente has nothing against the Fashion Institute of Technology, but he doesn’t want to keep paying for county residents who go there.

Picente on Tuesday asked the chancellor of the State University of New York system to remove FIT from the list of state colleges counties have to support when county residents attend a community college outside the county.

Picente’s greater objection is that counties and students and their families are having to pick up more of the cost as New York state pays less.  Part of that is paying a fee when county residents attend a community college outside the county.

The tax warrant that goes to taxpayers for county-related expenses includes nearly $1.8 million to pay for Oneida County residents going to other community colleges. The idea behind the chargeback system was to have counties without their own community colleges contribute toward educating their residents in these two-year SUNY schools, Picente said.

The largest amount billed to Oneida County for 2019, at nearly $1 million, is for Herkimer County Community College. The third most, about $174,000, goes to Onondaga Community College.

But the second biggest is to FIT, at $206,622.

The Fashion Institute in Manhattan is a part of SUNY and offers graduate and undergraduate programs in fashion, design and media. It has about 7,300 full-time students.

From 2017 to 2019 Oneida County will send an average of 13 students to FIT at a cost of $557,230 to the local taxpayer, according to Picente.

“The Fashion Institute of Technology is a fantastic center of higher learning that blends business, art, marketing and fashion to create a unique experience unduplicated in all of New York,” Picente wrote to SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson. “Conversely, it is not a community college. It offers a slew of four-year degrees and graduate programs just like many other SUNY schools throughout the state. It is long past time this chargeback to local communities came to an end.”

Picente blamed the chargebacks on declining state support of community colleges, saying costs for a particular college used to be evenly split among counties, tuition and Albany.

SUNY press secretary Holly Liapis said SUNY hasn’t received the letter but will review it when it arrives. However, she said the chargebacks system benefits students by lowering overall college costs.

“It also greatly benefits the region by bringing in several millions of dollars into the area annually via chargebacks to other counties with students attending Mohawk Valley Community College and Herkimer Community College,” Liapis said via email. “Any issues with the current system should be addressed through the legislative process.”

To pay the county’s share of Mohawk Valley Community College’s budget, Picente appropriated about $8.3 million for 2019, up from $8.14 in 2018 and $7.9 in 2017.