Marci Sterner, a returning adult student who has always struggled in school, said she is thriving at Corning because of the smaller classes and personal attention from the faculty. “They personally know you and you’re not a number,” she said. “And I use that Learning Center (for tutors and other support services) every single day.”
But success stories like Ferguson and Sterner are at risk, unless the state steps up and starts fully funding community colleges. “The state’s been starving community colleges for a long time,” said Ryan Hersha, president of Professional Educators of Corning Community College. While state law requires New York to cover 40 percent of community colleges’ operating costs, it only covers 28 percent of Corning’s budget.
Hersha, Sterner and Ferguson were part of a panel discussion hosted by the union on how important it is for the state to fully fund community colleges. The higher education round tables are part of the union’s “Fund Our Future” campaign, which is calling for the state to invest more in public education, from pre-K all the way through college.
“We have a lot of work to do in the next three weeks as the Legislature works on the state budget,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta. He said NYSUT is calling for an increase in community college aid, plus a new funding mechanism to insulate colleges from any enrollment declines. “We’re fighting for you.”