The SUNY school system received an increase in system-wide enrollment during the 2023–24 school year for the first time in a decade.
“Student enrollment increased, up 1.1% overall from fall 2022 to fall 2023, for a total of 367,542 students,” said the office of New York State Governor, Kathy Hochul.
Personalized acceptance letters, application fee waivers and SUNY Match – a program that automatically admits students who didn’t get into their first choice university to other participating campuses – are being credited as reasons for the positive trend.
Increases in enrollment for the SUNY system are a departure from declines in enrollment since 2011. “Enrollment fell 20% over the past decade, a staggering loss of 92,000 students and dropped 10% alone since fall 2019 as COVID-19 shuttered most in-person classes in March 2020 only to resume in earnest this fall,” said Joseph Spector in a 2021 Democrat and Chronicle article.
The increase in enrollment in the overall SUNY system is present at SUNY New Paltz as well. Approximately 1,800 students were greeted for the 2023–24 school year, which will bring the campus population to over 7,000, including graduate students. This change is positive for the SUNY system and SUNY New Paltz financially, but questions arise about the system’s ability to handle the influx of students.
SUNY New Paltz has a housing capacity of approximately 3,250 students. After factoring in the school’s rule of all single, full-time matriculated first-year students being required to stay in campus residence halls, only 1,450 on-campus beds are available for the 5,200 non-first-year students during the 2023–24 school year. There are some exceptions to the first-year student rule, but most students don’t qualify for or pursue exemptions.
Although the number of beds available to non-first-year students is significantly less than their population, no problems have seemed to arise. Students commonly choose to live off-campus whenever they get the opportunity, freeing up much of the on-campus space.
While off-campus living is an appealing alternative to on-campus dormitories for students wanting more space and freedom, alternative problems arise. Rent prices in New Paltz are much higher compared to the town’s immediate surrounding areas. Apartments.com’s rental market trends state the average New Paltz one-bedroom rental price in 2023 to be $1,629/month, with the same average in Ulster County as a whole to be $1,155. As time goes on, off-campus living is becoming less and less affordable. The Oracle reported on a drafted law meant to address unreasonable rent increases in New Paltz in October 2023, but as of now, no updates have been publicized.
Another factor to consider regarding an increase in student population is the upcoming renovation of the SUNY New Paltz’s only dining hall. The expansive project has an estimated budget of $33,000,000 and is planned to begin in February 2024. As of now, there is no publicly proposed plan for where and how students will eat during the renovation. With a growing student population, organizing and executing a plan to properly displace and feed on-campus diners during renovations will be more of a challenge than ever.