Although Dutchess Community College is expected to complete the 2018-19 academic year at a $2.38 million loss — something that’s not surprising to college and county officials — the county is pursuing solutions to increase enrollment and better serve students.
This will be the fifth year in a row where the community college’s expenses outpaced its revenue, amid declining student enrollment throughout the state of New York.
On-campus student enrollment at the community college has decreased nearly 27 percent since 2013.
According to an audit by the Dutchess County Comptroller’s Office, the community college has utilized over 31 percent of its funding, over $4 million in total.
Comptroller Robin Lois told the Poughkeepsie Journal that the school should move towards stabilizing its finances, during a period when student enrollment is predicted to continue declining. Lois recommends the college increase tuition, cut the personnel and benefit budget and change its relationship with the Dutchess Community College Foundation.
“Continued increases in funding despite lower enrollment should be examined carefully. It is imperative that costs be controlled to reflect the downward enrollment trends to ensure sustainability,” Lois said.
According to Dutchess spokesperson Judi Stokes, the community college is still considering several opportunities to further its revenue, and was not surprised by the audit’s results.
However, Stokes said, “Many of the suggestions refer to actions already explored or undertaken by the college. Others reflect unfamiliarity with and disregard for the codified college governance structure, our responsibilities regarding student success and the federal and state regulatory compliance environment in which we work.”
The Dutchess County legislature requested the audit report last July after the school requested an additional $750,000 for the current academic year, shortly after the legislature approved the school’s $69.3 million budget for the 2018-19 year.
The legislature was not expected to and did not find a “smoking gun” as a result of the report, said legislative chairman Gregg Pulver.
“What can be taken out of this report is that there should be more of a dialogue between the county, both the legislature and executive branch, and the community college administration and board of trustees,” Pulver said. “The declining enrollment is not new or shocking but it needs to be addressed.”
Dutchess president Pamela Edington said in a statement that investment in the school pays dividends to the county and beyond.
“Sustaining excellence during cyclical challenges is critical to ensuring that current and future generations receive the accessible, affordable and high quality education for which DCC has earned an outstanding reputation,” she said. “On that we can all agree.”