The borough's two community colleges are bracing for what could be the largest cuts to their budgets in recent years.
As proposed in Mayor Michael Bloomberg's executive budget, funding for City University of New York community colleges could be cut by nearly $26 million. In his 2009 budget, the mayor curtailed education spending, citing an uncertain city economy and woes on Wall Street.
Queensborough Community College in Bayside would have its budget for fiscal 2009 reduced by $4.1 million and LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City would lose $5 million.
The proposed reductions, not finalized until the City Council votes June 5, have the colleges preparing for and fearing the worst.
If the cuts are finalized, QCC would lose 8 percent of its operating budget and make cutbacks across the board. Most notably, $1 million would be pared from the school's adjunct budget, meaning larger classes and less course offerings for students.
Another $2 million would be slashed from campus maintenance funds.
"The campus would be dirtier," said Queensborough President Eduardo Marti. "We will try to minimize the impact to all the students who are graduating."
"I will do everything in my power to stop these cuts," City Councilman David Weprin, chairman of the Council's Finance Committee, said at a May 7 rally.
At LaGuardia similar cuts would be made.
The college would need to slash $2.8 million from its funding for faculty and academic services, again resulting in fewer classes available to students. Tutoring programs, library hours and equipment for the school's health program would also be affected.
Continuing education and community programs, such as ESL, financial literacy courses and public swim hours at the college pool, would be scaled back.
"It's just not about the full-time students, it's also about the non-credit areas of college," said Jose Orengo, executive director of government relations for LCC.
At a City Hall gathering last week, CUNY faculty, staff and students protested the proposed cuts.
"Our community colleges play an indispensable role in the economic development of this city," CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein said during his testimony before the City Council Finance Committee Friday.
Goldstein cited the employment rate of CUNY community college graduates, which stands at almost 90 percent six months after graduation, as proof that the colleges contribute to the city's economy.
Marti believes community colleges play an important role during difficult economic times.
"When things get tough, people tend to try to retool, to retrain and community colleges are the perfect places for people to do that," he said.
Marti maintains that while the colleges have prepared for budget cuts in the past, they are particularly concerned this year because the mayor already has proposed staggering cuts to the city Department of Education's budget, which will likely receive top attention from the City Council.
"The budget dance goes on every year. We're concerned this year because of the fact that mayor has also cut the DOE and clearly that's going to be priority No. 1," Marti said.
Still, Marti said he is confident that the City Council will restore the community colleges' funding.
Reach reporter Katy Gagnon by e-mail at kgagnon@ti
©2008 Community News Group
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