Community Colleges Trapped By Pension Shift

Dr. Guy Altieri, President of Hagerstown Community College and Chairman of the Maryland Association of Community College Presidents Council, recently explained the negative impact the teacher pension shift proposal will have on community colleges throughout the state in a Gazette.net article.

First, the proposal to transfer a portion of the pension costs to local governments would represent a crushing blow to our annual operating budgets. As currently proposed, it would come with a $9.5 million sticker price in just the first year, and that figure would continue to increase in the years to come. Second, if the counties are forced to pay some $239 million in pension costs, they will be hard-pressed to maintain critical funding for their community colleges.

In recent years, the state’s traditional commitment to funding one-third of the cost of a community college education has fallen to below 20 percent, with student tuition picking up the shortfall. A pension cost shift will only further erode the state’s share of the commitment, and it will almost surely result in a tuition increase. Such an outcome would hurt the students who can least afford to pay more for their college education and would fly directly in the face of what has been the top priority for higher education for both the governor and for President Obama — holding college tuition in line, while ensuring that more students receive college degrees.

The Governor is proposing a shift of pension costs from the State to county governments, providing $239 million in fiscal relief to the State budget for FY 2013, and creating an equal fiscal responsibility on county governments. Given the importance of the issue, and the many confusing elements of the plan and its reporting, MACo hopes to clarify the proposal on the table and its effects on county governments here.

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