Members of the Erie County Legislature are extremely disappointed that the 2015-2016 Erie Community College budget was approved with a $300 tuition hike. Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo, Legislator Ted Morton and Legislator Edward Rath attempted to amend the proposed budget to remove the second consecutive tuition hike. The budget was approved as proposed by a vote of 8-3 with Legislators Lorigo, Morton and Rath voting against.
“I am extremely disappointed that a majority of the Legislature voted to raise costs for students yet again. We can’t expect students to continue to carry the burden of ECC through annual tuition increases. Not only is ECC raising tuition by $300 again next year, ECC representatives have said they plan to propose additional tuition hikes for the next several years. This is all while student enrollment is steadily dropping. The reality is it’s time to have a discussion about priorities, and I believe investing in the education of our students should be high on that list. New York State and Erie County have not been adequately funding ECC for years, and it’s time we did something about it. Community college should be as economical as possible, and this tuition increase is absurd,” said Majority Leader Lorigo.
The amendment was seconded by Legislator Edward Rath, who has been very vocal about the future of ECC, stating that the decision to raise tuition is inappropriate.
“Increasing tuition should be the last resort, but unfortunately it has been the first solution to balancing ECC’s budget. There are other options available and we need to take a look at how the college is being funded. The cost of community college is becoming less and less affordable for residents and we are seeing enrollment numbers drop as a result. Raising tuition will not bring students to ECC. We need to focus on improvements and providing students a good education at a fair price,” said Legislator Rath. “Just as we can’t continue to raise taxes because of government’s spending decisions, we can’t raise tuition to fill a gap in ECC’s budget.”
“In meeting with representatives from ECC it was disappointing to learn that future plans include annual tuition increases through 2021. At this rate, we could see ECC’s enrollment drop to a dangerous level. In addition to tuition, students need to buy books and other supplies, and $300 a year can make a big difference. For years ECC has had a niche, offering a two-year degree at an economical rate when compared to two years at a four-year institution. However, continuing to raise tuition will have negative impacts,” said Legislator Ted Morton. “I have met with several businesses in my district that need a skilled a workforce and are working with ECC to achieve this. If students can’t afford to attend ECC, these businesses won’t have the employees needed to succeed. For many students, ECC is their only chance at continuing their education and getting the foundation they need to succeed in today’s world.”
The Legislators believe that instead of raising costs for students, Erie County and ECC need to demonstrate leadership and prioritize the college in its planning.