Lack Of Housing Could Cause Enrollment Decrease

Photo by Robin Weinstein.
Photo by Robin Weinstein.
Photo by Robin Weinstein.
Photo by Robin Weinstein.

SUNY New Paltz President Donald Christian said in his January Faculty Report that enrollment numbers for the spring semester are lower than expected, despite hitting target numbers for first-year and transfer students.

In the inaugural report for 2014, Christian said numbers were down due in part to previous graduating classes and the shortage in housing available at the university and in the community.

“Our spring semester enrollments are down slightly, although in the first week of class, any assessments are preliminary,” Christian said in the report. “We’re successful in spite of the deep external challenges we and other colleges face, given the steep competition for highly capable students.”

Christian said one of the key factors in explaining the current decline in enrollment is that more undergraduate students complete their degrees in four to five years, as opposed to five to six years. He also said the number of students from the 2008 entering class who were able to complete their degrees in four years has contributed to the decrease in enrollment.

“A slight decrease in undergraduate enrollment for spring semester stems in part from a great success: the unusually large entering class of 2008 had strong four-year graduation rates, and the five-year graduation rate this past spring was also very high,” Christian said. “Even though we exceeded our targets for incoming first-year and transfer students for this year, our total enrollment is down in part because the class of 2008 ‘moved through the pipeline’ at a higher rate than we had anticipated a year ago when planning this year’s enrollment targets.”

While enrollments are currently “sound,” enrollment could decrease because of the school’s current “housing crisis,” Christian said.

The school is able to house less than half of students enrolled. The opening of the residence hall next to Lenape Hall will allow the school the ability to house half of the student body.

Christian said the potential problems that could rise would be remedied if the private company Wilmorite, Inc. were given approval to build Park Point, a housing project that has been a controversial topic among New Paltz community members for the past two years.

“I’ve written and spoken many times with the Town Planning Board and the Ulster County Industrial Developing Agency and how important expanding housing is for our students,” he said.

Vice President for Enrollment Management L. David Eaton said the steady increase in undergraduate students since 2007 have contributed to the school’s need for housing. The increase in undergraduates is due to the decline of graduate student enrollment; Eaton said graduate students do not use or need the same housing amenities undergraduates need from the school.

“Because of the increase in full-time undergraduates, the housing shortage that exists at New Paltz is a serious factor that impacts the college’s attractiveness to potential transfer students and graduate students,” Eaton said. “The new residence hall currently being constructed adjacent to the Wellness Center will alleviate some of unmet demand for housing from incoming transfer students.”

Eaton also said New Paltz does not intend to increase undergraduate enrollments, and will instead focus on increasing graduate enrollments. Should an increase in graduate enrollments happen, the school will look to either stagnate undergraduate enrollment or attempt its decline.