The College Council of SUNY New Paltz held its second meeting of the semester last Thursday, March 6, at 3 p.m. in the Haggerty Administration Building where topics such as graduation rate and scholarships were addressed.
The council was first welcomed by President Donald Christian, who began the meeting with a recap of the past month’s happenings on campus.
The College has once again been ranked by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine. According to Christian, SUNY New Paltz received recognition for elements such as graduation rates and student achievement records.
“It is impressive that we have many students that have multiple majors,” he said. “Academic and student life is something that we are very prided on.”
Another advancement Christian recognized was the college’s graduation rate increasing from 87 to 88 percent. He hopes to soon boost this rate into the 90th percentile.
The President’s report set the precedent for the next topic of discussion by the council: student debt following graduation. Christian’s presentation stated that nearly 62 percent of SUNY New Paltz graduates will finish school with an average debt of $24,857.
Christian introduced using scholarships as a method to decrease debt. By gaining outside donors from the community willing to fund new scholarships for students, the college will be able to award a larger demographic of students with money to decrease their tuition payments in turn.
Christian said private support would help the College to “expand existing programs, support participation by more students and enhance career preparation.”
According to Christian’s presentation, if the student scholarship fund is increased, the average loan debt for students could be reduced by up to $10,000. Christian focused on scholarships designed for broader portions of the student body such as: honors program scholarships, to recruit top tier students; discipline specific scholarships, to support a student passionate in their current major, such as history or art; Center for Research, Regional Education & Outreach (CRREO) scholarships, in support of third and fourth-year student researchers; and scholarships to support transfer students enrolled at the College, who make up nearly half of the student population.
Newly-appointed Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations Erica Marks followed President Christian’s presentation with one about how more student scholarships hold the potential to give back to the community. Marks explained that strengthened philanthropic relationships will continue to promote success within the college and will better serve the population within the next three years.
During Marks’ presentation, Council Chairperson Kenneth Abt brought up the question of what donors will feel they will get out of giving to the college. Marks explained that nearly half of the money given from outside donors will go towards scholarships, which is in part an investment in another person’s life.
“There are many people who care about physical structures [on campus], but our most immediate need is for the students — to create this scholarship fund,” Marks said.
“I’m a Hudson Valley person — the investment in students who come to the focus of the Valley is in New Paltz. [The College] brings young people here and educates them, and a significant amount [of them] are going to remain here. Financing their education will make the community a better place and the fact of someone coming here and doing well as a student is going to keep them here,” Council Member Eli Basch said.
According to Marks, scholarship funds, enhancing STEM courses and the margin of excellence fund (which supports internships, student research projects and travel abroad programs) are all factors that enhance the experience of a SUNY New Paltz education.
“Together we are all undertaking to create better opportunity for our students and faculty,” Marks said. “Many people see giving to SUNY New Paltz as a way of giving to the community as well.”