The Chronicle of Higher Education listed SUNY New Paltz in the top 10 percentage of public universities with the best six-year graduation rates on Dec. 10, 2010.
SUNY New Paltz also placed in the top two percent of public masters institutions existing across the nation, is 41 out of 414 undergraduate public universities and fifth out of 254 masters institutions.
The Chronicle of Higher Education also recognized the school’s Honors Program and the First-Year Initiative (FYI) program that the school offers.
“Honors certainly contributes to the overall excellence of college,” said Jeffrey Miller, director of the schools’ Honors Program that is open to all students on campus. “Retention rates, already high at New Paltz, are even higher among members of the Honors program, and our emphasis on excellence and research mean that a substantial portion of our graduates go on to receive advanced degrees.”
While the Honors Program is open to all students of academic excellence based on coursework, recommendation letters and writing samples, according to Miller, students in the program are required to perform community service as well. The FYI program is open solely to first-year students, who are looking for a tight-knit group of peers who share common interests, both academically and socially.
“Students who enter feel part of an affinity group, so they start out with a group of peers who want the same things out of the college experience,” said Robin Cohen-LaValle, the associate dean of students at the university. “Research has shown that involvement in programs such as these can have a positive effect on [grade point average], persistence, out-of-classroom experiences and graduation rates.”
Both programs only take about 100 students each against New Paltz’s campus of about 6,000 students. But the size, Cohen-LaValle said, is something that only helps the student while they are making their first adjustments in a new setting which is different from home, thus making the small size a benefit.
“Students in FYI get to know over 100 first-year students like themselves, making the transition to a new place and balancing school and college life,” said Cohen-LaValle. “They get an opportunity to do community service together and have resident mentors who have completed their freshman year here, so they know to refer to all the offices and resources available on campus.”
Not only does the FYI program have students meet each other by taking some of the same classes, FYI students are also presented with trips around the area where students can also meet outside of the classroom, such as the trip taken during the fall semester to Mohonk Mountain.
While the Honors Program also focuses on assimilating students, especially first-years to college life, they place a strong focus on academics not just in the classroom, but for the eventual departure out into the world.
“Programs like Honors bring academic enrichment to SUNY New Paltz through small seminar based classes, a focus on undergraduate research, preparation for graduate school and an enhanced sense of community,” said Miller. “We look to prepare students for further graduate work, later employment, but most of all to be citizens of the world. We want them to leave SUNY New Paltz with an excellent foundation for their later pursuits in life…Whether that means going on to get an advanced degree, starting a business or pursuing other interests.”