BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Erie Community College budget was put up for public comment Thursday night, but no one from the public came to the meeting to comment. Even though the meeting was short, SUNY Erie President David Balkin discussed his plans to change the college.
“The previous administrations haven’t really responded by doing the right sizing that’s required in order to maintain a viable business model moving forward,” Dr. Balkin said.
The new plan to consolidate E.C.C. took a step forward after a public comment hearing in the Erie County Legislature. The budget calls for a small increase in tuition and program cuts.
“Students shouldn’t be forced to pay additional money for community college as a result of prior administration and Board of Trustee mismanagement,” Legislator Joe Lorigo, minority leader for the Erie County Legislature, said.
“I think people not coming indicates that they are not upset and they support the budget that was offered by E.C.C.,” Legislator Jeanne Vinal, District 5, said.
The college’s enrollment is down 50 percent since 2011 and the president predicts it will lose $9 million next academic year alone. There’s concern one of the three campuses will close.
“Our footprint is going to change throughout the region whether it is at North, City, South Campus. It’s going to expand and contract depending on the needs of our students,” Dr. Balkin said.
Minority Leader Lorigo said maintaining three campuses could be challenging and reconsolidating the college’s structure may help it moving forward.
“Operating three campuses at the level that they were operating at is likely not sustainable and we finally need to have the real serious conversations about what the future of the college looks like,” Minority Leader Lorigo said.
The president says new, innovative curriculum can ease the college’s financial burden.
“We’re a business much akin to any other business and we have to focus on a portfolio. As long as we are developing programs and courses that are relevant, I think we are going to be fine,” Dr. Balkin added.
President Balkin, Minority Leader Lorigo and Legislator Vinal say there needs to be change to the E.C.C. course offerings. They hope to partner with local businesses to provide students with workforce opportunities.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.