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Schenectady County to explore support for college students | News

The Schenectady County Higher Education Promise is a two-year pilot program between the county and SUNY Schenectady that would provide the university with $1.5 million each year to fill the gap between financial aid and tuition and fees for Schenectady County residents taking up to six credit hours.

County lawmakers will vote on a resolution at their meeting Tuesday to allocate $1 million to the program. If approved, the money will be available to county residents taking credit-bearing courses this coming semester.

“The Legislature is proud to support SUNY Schenectady with increased funding for its operations and historic investments in its facilities and equipment to ensure students have the tools they need to succeed,” Legislature Speaker Gary Hughes said in a statement. “This program builds on that investment, making it easier for Schenectady County residents to access accredited classes offered at SUNY Schenectady as they pursue their higher education goals and prepare for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”

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Additional funding for the pilot program would be included in the county’s 2025 budget. At least 800 students are expected to benefit from the program in the 2024-25 academic year, according to the county.

The Schenectady County Higher Education Promise comes as the university prepares to slightly increase its tuition rates for the upcoming academic year and as enrollment continues to show signs of improvement after more than a decade of decline that was exacerbated by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

Last fall, SUNY Schenectady’s enrollment increased by 6%, bringing the university’s student population to just under 4,000. The university also saw a 15% increase in the number of freshmen that same semester.

The university saw an 8% increase in new students during the spring semester.

In recent years, SUNY Schenectady has taken steps to increase its enrollment by forming international partnerships and providing a direct path to higher education by automatically admitting graduating high school seniors and strengthening its College in the High School program, which allows high school students to work toward an associate degree before graduation.

“The Schenectady County Higher Education Promise is an incredible investment in Schenectady County residents, allowing more students to pursue their dreams through the county’s tremendous show of support,” said SUNY Schenectady President Steady Moono in a statement.

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Still, the university faces the same inflationary pressures as everyone else and is seeking to raise tuition by 2.9%, or $6 per credit hour, as part of its 2024-25 operating budget. The proposed increase would raise tuition for part-time students to $207 per credit hour and to $2,484 per semester for full-time students.

The proposed $28 million budget would increase spending by just over $1 million compared to the current budget, maintain all current services and operations and include a negotiated 2.25% pay increase for staff, according to Patrick Ryan, the university’s executive vice president for administration and finance, who presented a budget proposal to county lawmakers last week.

A public hearing on the proposed spending plan will be held on August 5 at 7 p.m. at the Schenectady County Office Building.

The proposed spending plan also adds an additional full-time mental health counselor, a campus events coordinator, a new campus cleaner and a full-time lab technician.

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Technology and transportation fees would also increase by $2 per credit hour, Ryan said.

Ryan said the tuition increase can be attributed to the loss of federal COVID relief funds the university received after the pandemic hit. He said $500,000 from the university’s charitable foundation was used to keep the tuition increase below 3%.

“We are the second lowest tuition institution in the SUNY system,” Ryan said. “We have worked very hard to keep tuition low, but costs are rising and we are doing everything we can to find other sources to allow us to have the revenue available to operate and serve students.”

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