Suffolk County Community College trustees approved $23,310 for an outside lawyer and...

Suffolk County Community College trustees approved $23,310 for an outside lawyer and investigator who were involved in a probe of undisclosed allegations against former college President Shaun McKay. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Suffolk County Community College trustees on Thursday proposed a $221.5 million budget that would increase tuition by $250 annually, or 4.79 percent, for full-time students at the state’s largest two-year college.

However, the budget proposes that Suffolk County increase its share of college costs by three percent, or $1.3 million, even though County Executive Steve Bellone earlier told school officials to expect only a 1.5 percent increase. Bellone spokesman Jason Elan said, “We’re reviewing the request.”

Under the proposal, tuition for full-time students would rise from $5,220 to $5,470. Trustees also proposed a $5 hike in the $100 student activities fee for full-time students for school sports, clubs and activities.

The spending plan projects a 3.5 percent enrollment drop, primarily because more students are attending part time, and calls for $1.1 million less in spending than the current budget.

The proposal also includes a one-time infusion of $3.9 million from the college reserve. That would bring the fund balance to $10.66 million, or 4.8 percent of the college budget. SCCC's accrediting agency, Middle States Commission on Higher Education, recommends a 10 percent reserve.

Community colleges in New York were set up so the state, county and students each shared one third of the costs. But the proposed SCCC budget calls for students to pay nearly 50 percent; the state, which upped its aid by $100 per student in the recent state budget, 26.2 percent; and Suffolk County, 24.4 percent, or $50.4 million.

“The students are carrying the load,” said Jim Morgo, chairman of the trustees’ budget committee. “No one wants to balance the budget on the backs of the students.”

SCCC officials said the college has the lowest tuition of any of Long Island’s 13 colleges and universities. At Nassau Community College, annual tuition is $5,350, although it has not set its rates for 2019-20.

“We still have the best bang for the buck,” said Theresa Sander, SCCC trustee chairwoman.

Trustees voted 7-1 for the budget, with student trustee Jerome Bost dissenting because of the increased cost for students. “I feel I need to reflect the student body and that’s why a voted no,” he said.

Trustee Gordon Canary said the college cannot keep tapping reserve funds to pay operating costs. “Middle States has called out that we are dangerously low on reserves. We have to heed their warning,” Canary said.

Louis Petrizzo, SCCC’s acting president, said that the college is working to curb expenses to reduce reliance on its reserve funds.

The college budget now goes to Bellone, who must decide how much county aid to include before the spending plan goes to the Suffolk County Legislature May 31. County lawmakers can also amend the budget to increase the county’s share of college costs.

“We’ll certainly take a look at it,” said Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague). “We want to be supportive of the college and reduce the burden on students as much as possible.”

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