County To Meet With JCC Over Declining Enrollment

While SUNY Jamestown Community College is still guaranteed a certain amount of money from Chautauqua County regardless of enrollment, the dropping number of students there is still a concern to county leaders.

Years ago, Chautauqua County had a chargeback system in place, where the county would pay JCC a certain amount of money per student that was enrolled there, called a “chargeback” system. It’s a model similar to other community colleges across the state, where community colleges receive money from both the state and the sponsoring county. Because JCC has a site in Cattaraugus County, the college receives money from that county as well.

Shortly before COVID-19 hit, county leaders had been working with JCC to create a new funding fee structure, where the county would guarantee a certain amount of money, regardless of enrollment. At the same time, the county would also put in place a top level of funding, where they wouldn’t go over, even if JCC had higher than planned enrollments.

In February 2021, the legislature passed a resolution with a “floor” and “ceiling” amount. The legislature adopted a similar resolution in 2022. This year’s resolution states that the county’s 2022 sponsorship contribution to JCC will have a lower floor of $4,211,270 and an upper floor of $4,316,725. The final 2022 amount will be confirmed by February 2023.

Legislature Chairman Pierre Chagnon, R-Bemus Point, said the change from the “chargeback” to the “floor and ceiling” method was to help the college with dwindling enrollment.

“JCC’s enrollment had dropped every year for eight years in a row. Their enrollment would drop, they’d get less revenue from the county and from the state and so they’d slash their expenses, and in the next year they’d go through the same thing. By 2019 they had gotten to the point they didn’t know if they could cut their expenses anymore,” Chagnon said.

Chagnon noted the state had talked to the college about putting in a guarantee amount of revenue. The college, in turn, approached both Chautauqua and Cattaraugus, asking if they would do the same.

Shortly thereafter, COVID-19 hit. “Their world, along with everyone else’s was completely turned upside down. We basically said ‘We’re not going to punish you for what the pandemic did for you. We’ll continue with the same model for 2021,'” Chagnon said.

In 2022, the county gave JCC a 2% increase. The final payment will made in February 2023 after enrollment figures are finalized.

Chautauqua County is now talking to JCC about 2023. “We need to go back to where we were in 2019 and review the updated information,” Chagnon said.

The county would like to review JCC’s enrollment, revenue, reimbursements from the state and expenses. “We want to see if this model is getting what it hoped it would,” he said.

In August, JCC reported that enrollment continues to decline. Since the 2011-12 academic year, full-time equivalent student enrollment has gone from 3,889 to about 2,100 at present.

“The biggest obstacle is getting our enrollment back up to the pre-pandemic amount,” Mike Martello, JCC vice president of administration, said in an interview with The Post-Journal in early August.

Chagnon said he hopes to speak with JCC President Daniel DeMarte sometime this month. “The enrollment figures continue to be very disappointing so I’m thinking this is not going to be a very happy meeting,” he said.

Part of the reason Chagnon wants to meet with JCC now is because the county executive will present his tentative budget to the legislature on Sept. 28. County lawmakers will then begin reviewing the proposed budget in October.


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