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College update from the president: A solar field, a new program, international students

By Fritz Mayer
July 24, 2013

The relatively new president of Sullivan County Community College, Dr. Karin Hilgersom, gave a presentation to county legislators on July 11 about the budget for next year and other developments at the facility.

Among the bright spots, Hilgersom said a proposed nine-acre solar field is making progress. The solar field will be paid for entirely by a company called HelioSage, which has produced a number of large solar installations around the nation. Further, she said the company is allowing the college to use their NYSERDA grant as a “match” for another grant that will pay for roof repairs, which at this point will require about $500,000 to perform.

Another bright spot was a new program the college is developing in partnership with the Center for Discovery. Hilgersom said, “A third of the program would be devoted to agriculture and agriculture science, a third would be devoted to nutrition science and… the last third would be devoted to preparing healthy foods for large organizations and institutions. So it would be a strange new mix of agriculture, science and culinary arts, with food cooked in a healthy pleasant way, not the kind of culinary arts that doesn’t care about calories and cares only about flavor.”

A less bright spot was the news that enrollment is expected to be flat next year, and may decline a bit before starting to rise again. Nick Speranza, chair of the college board, explained that this is because enrollment in the county high schools has been declining.

Hilgersom said that the college is losing seven positions next year, and that only one new position is being created, that of an International Student Program Coordinator, who can help with recruitment of students from overseas and also help with socialization when the students arrive. She said the goal is to have about 30 international students in the next two or three years from China, India and perhaps Vietnam. She said the international students pay double the rate of other students, and the college will also be assessing an international student fee.

The college is not planning to raise the tuition rate. Hilgersom said, “We had been increasing tuition to a point where we are giving the competition, Ulster Community College and Orange Community college an edge.” She added that the increases are hard on families.

As for the contribution from the county, “We maintain the proposed county contribution for next year at $4 million; that’s absolutely vital, absolutely crucial for us to run the college in an effective way.”