Foreign students at FMCC credited with $1.2M in spending, report says

JOHNSTOWN — The Fulton-Montgomery Community College Board of Trustees recently received a report showing international students at the college contributed an estimated $1.2 million in local economic activity during the fall of 2020, but the board did not receive any new updates on the prospects of selling the dormitory halls once meant to help house them.

FMCC President Greg Truckenmiller told the board FMCC is now tied with Hudson Valley Community College for the 9th and 10th spot among colleges in the 20th Congressional District for international students, with these colleges making up the top eight in descending order: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, UAlbany, Skidmore, Union, Empire State, St. Rose, Siena and and Albany College of Pharmacy.
Truckenmiller said last week was “International Education Week” and according to the NAFSA: Association of International Educators’ economic tool for calculating the economic impact of foreign students studying in the U.S. the international students at FMCC supported the existence of 6 jobs in the region through their spending $1.2 million on things like tuition, overall living costs, transportation, housing, food and health insurance.

“For, I don’t know how many years in a row, we continue to be one of the top international education schools in the Capital District and in Congressional District 20,” Truckenmiller said. “I’m proud of the fact that, for such a small institution, we continue to have a strong international enrollment.”

Truckenmiller did not include the exact number of international students enrolled at FMCC that contributed to the fall 2020 estimated spending, but noted in a presentation to the board that, “Nationally enrollments were significantly down across the country.”

In April, when the college’s nonprofit arm the Fulmont College Association (FCA) sought court approval to sell the “Campus View Student Housing” complex and its three dormitory halls, located on 4.5 acres on County Highway 142, Truckenmiller had estimated the total number of international students at FMCC had dwindled to 47 for the spring 2021 semester amid a sharp decline in the occupancy rate for the dorm halls.

The dropping occupancy rate was listed as among the reasons the FCA needed to sell the dormitory halls, which had been built-up using an $11.3 million loan from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture in 2010, costing the FCA an annual $770,000 in debt service payments it could no longer afford to pay without students occupying the dorms.
“For the 2017-18 school year, the Property had a 78.3% occupancy rate, which decreased to 58.2% for the 2018-19 school year, and then decreased further to 48.8% for the 2019-2020 school year,” reads the FCA court petition for permission to sell the property. “Since the 2015-16 school year, the College has seen a total decline in student
housing occupancy of 53.5%. During this same period of time, the College has seen a corresponding decline in enrollment of 35%.”

The declining international enrollment represented a steep reversal of fortune for FMCC, which in 2016 had the highest concentration of international student enrollment among all of New York state’s community colleges at 5.8% of total enrollment, reaching a high of approximately 160 students. Under former FMCC President Dustin Swanger the school and its nonprofit corporations had proposed building a $12 million “Global Village” on 145 acres owned by the Foundation of FMCC on Bendicks Corner Road. In 2017 Swanger pronounced the Global Village concept dead amid new restrictions on student visas imposed by President Donald Trump’s administration.

According to the U.S. Dept. of State the number of F-1 student visas dropped from 471,728 in 2016, the last year of President Obama’s administration, to 393,573 in 2017 and then to 362,929 F-1 student visas issued in 2018 under Trump. The 2018 F-1 visa numbers show a total annual decline of 281,304 F-1 visas from the peak-year under Obama when there were 644,233 F-1 visas issued in 2015.
The FCA’s attempt to sell the dormitory halls in April to Amsterdam-based Dan Vann Properties LLC for $1.1 million was challenged in court by Teresa Monroe, of the Monroe Law firm in Albany, representing two clients Bianca Alicea of Amsterdam, a nursing student at FMCC since 2017 and local rental property owner William Petrosino of Amsterdam.

The court challenge alleged fraud and argued the FCA’s real estate broker the Pyramid Brokerage Company of Albany had not properly marketed the property and that the undisclosed sole real estate agent for the deal was past FMCC Board chairman Michael Sampone and that the multiple listing service Pyramid claimed to have used to market the property “does not appear to actually exist.”
After the court challenge the FCA withdrew the petition to sell the properties.

Truckenmiller, who is also the president of the board of directors of the FCA, told the FMCC board of trustees in September that the FCA had worked with officials at the USDA and the New York State Attorney General’s Office to obtain prior approval for a marketing plan for the properties that would satisfy the nonprofit’s obligation to its stakeholders, which include the faculty, staff, administration and students of FMCC. He said the FCA was sticking with Pyramid Brokerage to sell the property and that it had been relisted for sale — this time for its appraised value of $1.8 million.

“The listing is live and it will be out there for about 30 days,” Truckenmiller told the FMCC board of trustees at its September meeting.

But, as of Sunday evening, the 74,740 square foot Campus View Apartments remains listed for sale at www.pyramidbrokerage.com.
Truckenmiller did not mention the dorm halls during his report to trustees last week.

By Jason Subik

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