Thousands of community college students who faced delays related to the cyberattack on Suffolk County in securing a vital county tuition subsidy will soon have a workaround for getting residency documents needed for the payments, a county official said.
Around 3,000 students from Suffolk who attend community colleges at locations outside of Suffolk across the state will soon have a new online system to secure residency certificates to receive a discount of one-third of their tuition from Suffolk County government, said Deputy County Executive Vanessa Baird-Streeter.
Since the Sept. 8 ransomware attack crippled county services across the network, those who needed the certificates from an online service from the county comptroller’s office have not been able to apply online. The online application is important because many students who attend college outside of Suffolk need to get documentation in advance of the spring semester.
The county's workaround on its main website would allow students to fill out the paperwork on an online PDF form that can be emailed or sent by mail to the county for verification and processing. Baird-Streeter said the county is adding two employees to help expedite the process to 10 to 15 days.
There are 36 community colleges across the state that participate in the program.
Word of the county’s solution was news to county Comptroller John M. Kennedy Jr., whose office worked with the county clerk's office to create the initial online application and which processes the payments for the students. Told about it Thursday night, Kennedy called the “manual” workaround a step backward. “We’re back to where we were before Nintendo,” he said. As for his not being notified of the solutions by the Bellone administration, Kennedy said, "They get an F for communication.”
Baird-Street on Friday noted that she personally worked with Kennedy’s staff in coming up with and facilitating the workaround, denying there was a lack of communication.
Students will still need to provide proof with two documents that qualify for residency, said Baird-Streeter, who added Suffolk is reaching out to all 36 community colleges that participate in the program to let them and students know of the workaround system.