On Nov. 4, President Donald P. Christian issued his latest President’s Report, which outlined some successes and problems for SUNY New Paltz.
Important points from the President’s Report include an increase in enrollment, graduation retention, student financial struggles, administrative searches, the Alumni Reunion held on the weekend of Oct. 17, the Fall Open House, the Veteran and Military Students Conference and the upcoming Holiday Reception.
Christian considered writing his report as commentary on national and global news, but he decided to “opt” for a “brighter note.” Christian described the topics within the report as “key happenings, work in progress and upcoming events.”
The first point discussed in the report is the increase in enrollment. Statewide SUNY enrollment is on the decline. In February, The Poughkeepsie Journal reported that SUNY enrollment decreased for the eighth year in a row because of a decline in New York State population.
However, SUNY New Paltz had 100 more undergraduate students and 43 more graduate students enroll for this fall semester compared to last year.
“SUNY continues to be a very popular choice for college-bound students as well as a very popular destination for transfer students,” said David L. Eaton, vice president of enrollment management. “The College has a large number of majors that are in high demand, our location is superb, and according to feedback, we are a warm and friendly community that embraces diversity.”
While increasing enrollment is a part of the college’s multi-year plan to balance the budget and eliminate deficits, the college is still short on tuition revenue targets because of the varying tuition prices for students who are full-time, part-time or living on campus and off campus.
Another bright spot for SUNY New Paltz is that six-year graduation rates are up at 76.6%. The graduation rate for the Equal Opportunity Program students are 73% and for 76.7% for first-generation students, which is the highest the college has seen.
However, the four-year graduation rate has dropped to 61.7% from 58.2%, most likely because of “financial constraints that extend the time needed for [SUNY New Paltz] students to graduate.”
To find a solution to this problem, Interim Provost Barbara Lyman and Eaton are assembling a “Student Success and Retention Committee” to develop evidence and identify key actions for the college to support students to graduate on time.
In addition, it is evident that many New Paltz students face financial insecurities which impacts whether they can afford food or not.
Results from last year’s SUNY-wide survey on food insecurity showed that 60% of SUNY New Paltz students have reported not having enough money to buy food and 50% have reported not being able to study due to hunger, while only 13% have reported utilizing the food pantry on campus.
SUNY New Paltz offers services to aid students facing financial instability with the food pantry. The pantry was started by Rev. Dianna Smith “in response to a student request for food for a struggling student. Smith responded to that request and soon realized that if there was one student in need there were surely many more.”
However, 44% of students have reported not being comfortable with using the food pantry.
According to Smith, the food pantry has grown within the past nine years and, more than 60 students visited the food pantry between 1 p.m. and 4 on Oct. 23.
“There is a perception that there will be judgement or unwillingness to help, but I want to assure students and staff that the pantry is open, inclusive and welcoming,” Smith said. “The College can help address this problem by keeping the pantry on campus as long as there is a need.”