Many college students are enjoying a nice break this summer before they return to classes in the fall. Unfortunately for Erie Community College students, returning in the fall just became $300 more expensive.
When ECC presented its proposed 2015-2016 budget to the Legislature for approval, I was extremely disappointed to see that the solution to a revenue shortfall was to increase tuition by $300 for the second year in a row. Worse, ECC’s long-term plan calls for additional tuition hikes through 2021. I adamantly opposed the tuition increase and proposed an amendment to remove it from the budget. Unfortunately, a majority of my colleagues did not support my amendment, and the budget was approved with the $300 increase intact.
Affordability is one of the main attractions for community colleges, and ECC is steadily losing its place in higher education. By pure coincidence, I hosted a recent Iroquois graduate at the Legislature on the day the ECC vote took place. He had actually considered attending ECC to save money before finishing his degree at a four-year school. After reviewing the cost of tuition and factoring in aid, the difference between his tuition at ECC and the University at Buffalo was only $1,000 for the year. Prior to making his decision, he researched the most cost-efficient options for many schools. After comparing several options, ECC did not make financial sense.
I point this out because the fact is, both Erie County and New York State should be investing more money in ECC. However, both have failed for years to prioritize ECC and community colleges as a whole. As a result, students are repeatedly asked to pay more in tuition. That isn’t right.
I am disappointed my colleagues passed ECC’s budget without the opportunity to delve in and get to work on finding the additional funding. Many took the “easy” vote, which will prove very difficult for many students to manage. Instead of saddling students with more expense and more debt, I believe we should be following through on our promises to do better going forward.
In another matter, I hope to bring a small improvement to county parks that will be a big difference for young families. The restrooms in many county parks are lacking diaper changing stations that you see in most public spaces and restaurants. As a father of a young child, I agree with the constituents I have heard from that this upgrade is long overdue. I plan to work with the Parks Commissioner to identify funding to purchase changing stations and install them in the largest restroom at each park, and hopefully add more as we are able. This is just another way we can make our Erie County parks more family-friendly.
I am interested in hearing your comments on any of the above mentioned topics or other county issues. Please contact me at 858-8922 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.