Cayuga Community College and Wells College presidents talk challenges, growth | Local News

AUBURN — The Wells College president said the institution struggled with the state’s tuition program for private facilities.

Jonathan Gibralter, who leads the Aurora-based private institution, spoke at the monthly Wednesday Morning Roundtable event at the Hilton Garden Inn in Auburn. He and Cayuga Community College President Brian Durant discussed issues facing their respective organizations and higher education trends. 

Gibralter criticized the New York state Enhanced Tuition Awards program, meant to help students hoping to go to New York’s private institutions.

“We opted-in in year one. Some changes were made to the program in year two, and we decided it wasn’t a program that was truly in the best interests of our students,” Gibralter said.

The agreement involved students being “academically eligible at the end of the year to receive the award, which means we had to credit the students’ account in advance with no money and no assurance of money coming in,” Gibralter said. He said the system used to apply for funds caused tremendous frustration for students as well.

Gibralter talked about the college’s presidential scholarship agreement with CCC. The program, which was approved fall 2017, allows CCC’s presidential scholarships recipients to receive admission to Wells with a minimum annual $22,000 scholarship for up to four years.

“I don’t have the exact number of (students who) paid deposits who are from Cayuga County, but I can tell you that your children, your grandchildren, your friends, your relatives, they are coming to Wells,” Gibralter said. “And that’s a good thing, because don’t we want to keep our young people local so that they then will graduate and become a part of our economy and give back to that economy through their tax dollars?”

Durant said the competition for higher education “has never been stronger,” adding the college can’t afford to take a student’s enrollment choice for granted. He concluded the college will have to work harder as a result.

“When we look at (the 2017-2018 school year), where we finish this academic year, this is our first year since about 2012 that Cayuga Community College is anticipated to have growth in its enrollment,” Durant said. “This past fall we served over 400 more students than we did the previous fall.”

The college is also looking at being up about 2 percent in overall enrollment, Durant said, adding applications for next year are tracking to see a 2 to 3 percent bump.

He said one of the reasons why numbers are up is the influx of Auburn Enlarged City School District students attending CCC. The college’s “capture rate” for Auburn’s graduating class this year is 35 percent, up 5 percent from the previous year. 

Durant said the college has seen growth through online classes, its Fulton campus and its kindergarten through 12-grade partnerships. Over 60 percent of CCC’s enrollment comes from outside Cayuga County, he noted.

Durant said 123 students qualified this year for the Excelsior Scholarship program, through which students attending state institutions can receive free tuition.

“For us at Cayuga, it resulted in $176,000 of money received for those recipients serving 60 students who were able to receive that aid,” Durant said.

Durant said the aid the other students were eligible for “already covered the balance of their bill.”

“If this program has resulted for those 60 individuals to be able to reduce (their) financial burden, indebtedness, and to help make excess easier, then from that perspective, this program has done its job for them,” Durant said.

Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.