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Former financial officer at ECC converts on chargebacks

William D. Reuter isn't railing against chargebacks anymore.

As chief financial officer for Erie Community College, Reuter spent years arguing against the chargeback fees imposed upon counties for residents who attend community colleges outside their home counties. Community colleges largely benefit from chargebacks, which are meant to supplement their main revenues: tuition, county sponsorship support and state aid.

But in the case of ECC, chargebacks have been a painful double-edged sword. That's because Erie County municipalities in 2015 paid $6.9 million in chargebacks for nearly 1,900 residents attending community colleges outside of Erie County. Meanwhile, ECC took in about $1 million. The primary destination for those students leaving Erie County was Niagara County Community College in Sanborn.

Reuter and others argued for years that the dollars coming from Erie County subsidize NCCC's ability to invest more heavily in programs and facilities, putting ECC at a major disadvantage.

Chargebacks are popular among community colleges, and any movement to get rid of them hasn't gained traction among state lawmakers.

One of those campuses is Hudson Valley Community College. HVCC is located in Troy, Rensselaer County, but it draws more than a third of its students from nearby Albany County, which does not have a community college. In 2015-16, HVCC brought in $15.3 million in chargeback revenue.

After nearly 20 years at ECC, Reuter was recently appointed vice president for administration at HVCC. He quickly changed his tune on chargebacks. Those additional funds go a long way toward keeping the HVCC campus up to date, properly staffed and well maintained, said Reuter, who started in his new post earlier this month.

"I now tell people I love chargebacks," he said.

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