HVCC says he sees results after 10 international trips

TROY — Hudson Valley Community College says it’s beginning to see results from several international trips officials have undertaken, efforts they say have attracted hundreds more students after some criticism of the expensive trips.

Top directors have traveled to China, Germany, Aruba, Costa Rica, Israel and other countries in recent years, including 10 trips in the past four years. The spouses came last year on the trip to Israel, prompting criticism that it felt like a vacation trip.

The spouses paid for their own trip, and it was the only trip they took part in, HVCC President Roger Ramsammy said. But he acknowledged that it left a bad impression.

For many years, he said travel would bring in more students, and therefore more revenue for the college. After the trip to Israel, Democrats in the Rensselear County Legislature called him, demanding to know the return on investment.

Now Ramsammy says he has some numbers to give them.

The college just signed an agreement with Costa Rica’s Ministry of Public Education to train 1,000 high school teachers, he said. Teachers will learn, in live lessons, how to teach English effectively. The program starts with 90 teachers this fall.


He estimated that it would bring in between $200,000 and $500,000 a year.

In Aruba, the college also partners with the American University School of Medicine, a medical school.

“Our students will be able to go straight to medical school,” Ramsammy said. “And their students can sign up for our classes.”

The college has about 200 full-time equivalent international students currently taking classes virtually, and it hopes that will increase with the Aruba initiative.

About 50 percent of graduates from Caribbean medical schools “match” medical residency in the United States, a crucial step to becoming a doctor here. Many others stay in the Caribbean and become doctors there. About 90% of US medical school graduates are “twinned” after graduation. Those attending Caribbean schools are encouraged to apply for a match in a less competitive specialty, such as family medicine, where matches are much more likely.

In Germany and Denmark, HVCC officials visited commercial sites so they could build classrooms with the exact equipment that large companies need for their employees. They have just completed construction of a laboratory that resembles the modern wind turbines that Welcon of Denmark uses for its offshore wind farms, one of which Welcon is about to build at the Port of Albany. Now students use this lab in Troy to learn how to weld these turbines.

Ramsammy is also working with Israeli officials to work out agreements in which HVCC would train high school teachers who would teach workforce training courses.

“We’re nowhere yet, we’re just starting this one,” Ramsammy said, but the proposal is for teachers to come to HVCC, train in a specific workforce development program, and then return to Israel to create this program.

“Soon all this will pay off for us too,” he said.

Details will be worked out via Zoom, but he said he sometimes has to go in person to make connections.

“If I can sit in my office and never get on a plane again, I’ll be happy because that’s the worst thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “I hate travel. It pisses me off because I wish I never had to travel and I could zoom in on everything. It just doesn’t work in business.

Last year, the college spent $69,000 on international travel. This year it is budgeted at $137,000 and next year the budget calls for expenditures of $186,000, or 0.2% of the operating budget.

Minority Democratic members of the Rensselaer County Legislature Education Committee demanded those numbers before voting on the college’s 2023 budget. HVCC told them they had to submit a freedom of information request and that they would not receive the data until after the scheduled vote.

Lawmaker Cynthia Doran, who asked for the numbers, said she was happy to hear from a reporter that the college was seeing a return on its investment. But she said the college should have given her that information.

“If it can bring income to the Hudson Valley as income declines, hallelujah,” she said. “But I would still like to know (before a vote). We are asking for a budget line on a budget on which we are going to vote and we cannot be given the information? How much did it cost you to go there? go and what did you receive as a result, I don’t think that’s unreasonable.

She still wonders if it is really necessary to travel.

“Do we still have to make these trips? We have the zoom capability,” she said.

She added that she was not trying to hurt the college.

“I’m a Hudson Valley fan. It is an amazing community college. The programs are creative, they are relevant. It’s not a situation where I try to make it difficult for people,” she said. “I asked for information and was refused.”

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