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Community College

The Selden campus of Suffolk County Community College. File photo

Last week, Suffolk County Community College officially inaugurated Edward Bonahue as its seventh president.

During his inaugural address, Bonahue emphasized the importance of offering quality higher education at an affordable cost. The staff of TBR News Media energetically supports this message.

Often flying under the radar, two-year institutions do some of the most important work throughout the county and the nation. These institutions are the bridge for some people who have been historically left behind by the education system. At a time when the cost of higher education is skyrocketing out of control, when the decision to take out a student loan is comparable to taking out a mortgage, when fewer people see the value of a college degree, community colleges provide families a common-sense alternative.

Residents of Suffolk County should know that the decisions one makes coming out of high school can have enormous long-term consequences. For many, taking out a five-figure mandatory loan before the age of 20 is simply unwise, and for others can be a catastrophic mistake. Some 18-year-olds simply lack the prudence to make a financial decision of that magnitude.

Coupled with inflation and volatility in the market, more than ever parents must do the difficult work of calculating whether sending their children off to an expensive four-year institution is in their best interest. How can one know for sure that a high school student will comfortably adapt to life at the university? How can anyone predict the long-term academic success of someone who has only known a sheltered life on Long Island? Nowadays, sending even one child off to college disrupts the entire family budget dramatically.

To the residents of Suffolk County, to the parents and students who may be uncertain about whether or not college is the right choice, understand there are alternatives. Community colleges, such as SCCC, are a valuable resource that more Suffolk families should tap into.

Community colleges are a stepping stone. They allow students to determine for themselves if they are college-ready. For those who thrive at the community college, the pricey four-year institution may be a reasonable next step. However, for those who learn that they either struggle in a college setting or are dissatisfied by the work of the academy, the reasonable tuition of the community college makes it easier and less painful to cut one’s losses.

Community college should be a testing ground for student fence-sitters, those uncertain about which path is right for them. For many, community college will propel them to other institutions of higher learning. For others, it will likely point them in the direction of other — often more profitable — career alternatives.

The TBR staff congratulates President Bonahue on his recent inauguration. We hope that with his leadership, Suffolk residents will build trust in our county’s more affordable college institutions. From SCCC to Stony Brook University — both institutions that offer generous tuition rates for in-state residents — people here do have the option to receive a quality college education at an affordable price. Some people should choose this path to reduce the overall cost of their education.

Photo courtesy of SCCC

Education prepares people for the future, helps them achieve their goals and increases their odds of living a life where they not only survive, but thrive.

As blues musician B.B. King is famously quoted as saying, “The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.”

President Joe Biden (D) gets that concept, and last week he asked Congress to enact legislation that would allow Americans to attend community colleges for free. Under the American Families Plan, $109 billion would be slated to make two years of community college free for all students. There would also be an $85 billion investment for expanding federal Pell Grants, which is awarded to undergraduate students who display financial need and have not earned a degree. This is one important way to help our young people who are unprepared for the workforce after high school.

For many, a community college has given them an advantage that they may not have had otherwise. From those whose grades were less than ideal in high school to those whose can’t afford to attend a four-year university or are undecided on what they want to do with their lives, a community college provides a stepping stone that is local and affordable for most. 

Here at TBR all three of our current editors attended Suffolk County Community College, which in turn paved the way to making obtaining bachelor’s degrees at other institutions more manageable.

According to the website joebiden.com, approximately six out of 10 jobs require education beyond a high school diploma. To succeed in a world where the economy is globalized and technology driven, people are going to need more than 12 years of education.

The website also goes on to say that one can do a lot with an associate degree. 

“Today in the United States there are an estimated 30 million quality jobs, with an average salary of $55,000, that don’t require a bachelor’s degree,” according to the site.

Free college tuition for community colleges would mean even more young people being able to achieve the American Dream. It can also keep college-aged students in the area, frequenting local stores, which stimulates the local economy. And in the long term, with less student debt to pay, it may increase the odds of people staying on Long Island and settling down.

Two years can make a difference and transform a life. Our sincere hope is that Congress will take this proposal from the president seriously.

At the same time, we hope a better look is taken at our current public school system in America. Even before the pandemic, American children were not receiving an equal education from state to state as many schools are funded through local taxes. The more affluent an area a person lives in, the better the education tends to be. Also, there is a need for more pre-K classes across the country to provide children a head start in learning, both academically and socially. Most of all, everybody should be required to complete 12th grade and not be able to drop out of school at 16.

The education system in the U.S. needs a lot of fine-tuning. Let’s start by providing high school graduates a chance to get the skills they need in today’s competitive world.

Donor Robert Frey shakes hands with the Suffolk Sharks mascot. Photo from Suffolk County Community College

A Belle Terre resident opened his wallet to give back to his alma mater last week, donating $1 million to Suffolk County Community College.

Robert Frey, through his Frey Family Foundation, made the gift as the college honored him during its annual Salute to Excellence Gala on May 5, for the foundation’s contributions to SCCC. The college said it was the largest gift from a graduate in its 58-year history.

“I tend to not do these things in the way that gets attention,” Frey said in a phone interview on Monday. But he said he thought the action would “trigger other people” to support the college.

SCCC President Shaun L. McKay, left, orders a $1 million check be unveiled. Photo from Suffolk County Community College
SCCC President Shaun L. McKay, left, orders a $1 million check be unveiled. Photo from Suffolk County Community College

Frey is a research professor at Stony Brook University and the director of its quantitative finance program, within the applied mathematics and statistics department, among other positions at SBU. He is also a businessman, serving as CEO of international investment management firm FQS Capital Partners Ltd. and of his family office, Harbor Financial Management.

He graduated from the college in 1978. His wife Kathy and daughter Megan also graduated from SCCC. After Suffolk, Frey went on to Stony Brook University, where he eventually earned a doctorate in applied mathematics.

“I never would have gotten started without Suffolk,” he said, which is why he wanted to give back.

He grew up in Brooklyn, a “lower middle class Irish-American whose access to education at a price he could afford changed his life.”

He said he hopes the $1 million will be used for capital improvements and scholarships, but he specifically “didn’t want to put too many restrictions on this” because he trusts the college officials’ judgment.

The donor “recognizes the transformative value of his foundation’s contribution and the impact it will have on the lives of our students,” college President Shaun L. McKay said in a statement. “We cannot thank him enough for his generosity and commitment to our institution.”

Frey’s name is familiar to more than just the Suffolk and SBU campus communities — he was previously a member of the Port Jefferson school board, before resigning in 2011 for health reasons. He was also once on the Mount Sinai school board when he lived in that community.

Donor Robert Frey signs the ceremonial check. Photo from Suffolk County Community College
Donor Robert Frey signs the ceremonial check. Photo from Suffolk County Community College

He has worked for his community in other ways as well.

The community college said he has also served on the boards of the nonprofit volunteer safety group The Alliance of Guardian Angels; the Port Jefferson-based nonprofit Hope House Ministries; the National Museum of Mathematics in New York City; the Suffolk Community College Foundation; and the Stony Brook Foundation.

This isn’t the first time the Frey Family Foundation has donated a large sum to a local institution — it has previously given to both Stony Brook University and John T. Mather Memorial Hospital.

In the case of Suffolk Community and why it deserved support, Frey stressed that the courses are high-caliber and the college cares about its students, many of whom would not have had access to advanced education or training without it.

“It does meet the needs of so many people,” he said. “There are probably few things … where your money is going to be used more effectively than in education.”