In fall of 2020, the first semester following quarantine, SUNY New Paltz experienced one of its lowest acceptance rates on record, coming in at 45.2% of over 14,000 applicants. However, over the course of the past year, the acceptance rate rose from 45.2% to 62%.
According to SUNY New Paltz’s Vice President of Admissions, Jeff Gant, a college’s acceptance rate says very little about the standard of its academic achievements. “I think that it would be misguided to measure an institution’s prestige or quality of the education solely on acceptance rate alone, because it can only tell you of all of the students who apply, how many actually were offered admission. What it doesn’t tell you is what the profile of the class looks like,” Gant said. “We look for students who are the absolute best fit for the educational rigors at SUNY New Paltz and all that entails. If a student meets those qualifications, they’re offered admission. We balance that against the availability that we have in each upcoming class, and as our goals change, so too can the acceptance rate.”
The main reason for the staggering increase in the acceptance rate at SUNY New Paltz is rooted in COVID-19 policies. Many students, following the initial quarantine spring, decided to push off their college education until the state of the world improved. In the past two years, the undergraduate numbers nationwide have decreased by an average of 6%, the largest drop in at least 50 years. This can cause a lot of financial and employment issues for each individual institution.
“We have enrollment goals that we need to meet to maintain the overall financial health and student body of the campus. That means that we need to make sure that we offer admission to as many qualified students as possible, which means sometimes we have to try to encourage more students to apply than have in the past so that we have that pool to draw from,” says Gant. “We haven’t measurably changed our standards, but since the SUNY system had decided to go test optional because of the pandemic, we are now able to look really closely at the work that they’ve done in high school, their actual coursework, and use that primarily as the deciding factor in their admission instead of test scores, along with a number of other holistic measures that we consider.”
The largest class that SUNY New Paltz ever accepted was the incoming freshmen class of 2008, which came in around 1,300 students. The goal of increasing the acceptance rate was to try and get back to that number, since it had decreased because of the pandemic, but not to exceed it. According to Gant, the admissions office would like to keep the student population at around 7,500 students.
“The discrepancy between the acceptance rate and the number of students will most likely even out in a few years. Though my commitment to the institution is to make sure that the students who we recruit here are prepared for success, that they’re the right fit and that we are offering admission and accommodating to the greatest ability we can, students who have proven themselves. So I worry about those numbers before I ever worry about what the acceptance rate looks like,” said Gant.