Rockland County legislators reconsidered their 2012 action that transferred the county’s responsibility for community college chargebacks to the towns. The discussion during Wednesday’s Budget & Finance Committee meeting came after Rockland Community College President (RCC) Dr. Cliff Wood confirmed that RCC kept the $2.7 million in revenue from chargebacks it received from out-of-county students attending the Suffern-based college while the county had been paying the $1.7 million in chargeback fees for Rockland residents going to other community colleges.
Wood agreed with Legislator Ilan Schoenberger’s description that the county payment of tuition chargebacks was comparable to a subsidy for the college. Schoenberger proposed that the legislature should rescind the $1.7 million in chargebacks it shifted to the towns and should push the state to pay its 40 percent share of the college’s costs, not the 25 percent it is currently funding. He said he had changed his position on the issue.
I think we should deal with this issue,” said Schoenberger. “We should resolve this.”
Committee Chair Michael Grant opposed putting the proposed resolution before the committee because he had received it Wednesday morning and it did not include a funding mechanism. The resolution did not state where the funds would come from to pay the $1.7 million in chargebacks.
Town of Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence said he spoke on behalf of the other four town supervisors and asked the committee to reconsider and vote on the resolution to repeal the chargebacks.
“They’ve asked me to ask this legislature for an up or down vote on this and either move it to the full legislature or not move it to the full legislature,” said St. Lawrence.
He said Ramapo’s chargebacks amounted to $580,000, however if the coverage of FIT students was limited to two years that number would fall to about $183,000. He expressed a willingness on the part of the town supervisors to work with the county to resolve the chargeback issue.
Wood told the committee that chargebacks paid by the home counties of students represented 16 percent of RCC’s revenue in 2012. He said about 1,600 out-of-county students attend the college and the vast majority of them, 900, hail from Orange County.
The committee also discussed FIT’s classification as a community college. More than half of RCC’s chargeback costs, a total of $1 million, were attributable to FIT. Wood said FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) is considered a “two plus two institution” that offers associates and bachelor’s degrees as well as master’s degrees. He noted that FIT students are required to earn an Associate’s Degree before pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree.
Schoenberger said he thought the chargeback for FIT should be limited to two years, the same as the other community colleges. He also noted several pending lawsuits in other parts of the state could affect the chargeback situation.