SUNY System Suffers From Enrollment Drought

State University of New York (SUNY) campuses have experienced a decline in overall enrollment for the eighth year in a row with a 1.6 percent decline from Fall 2017 to Fall 2018. 

Overall, SUNY enrollment has declined from 470,674 enrolled students in Fall 2010 to 424,051 students in Fall 2018. It appears that a decrease in enrollment for community colleges in the SUNY system are the reason for the overall drop. Community colleges went from having 249,343 enrolled students in 2010 to 199,873 in 2018, while the overall enrollment of state operated SUNY colleges have increased slightly with 221,842 students in 2010 and 224,178 in 2018. 

One of the biggest factors impacting SUNY enrollment is the decline in high school graduates and an employment surge in the Northeast, according to L. David Eaton, vice president of enrollment management at SUNY New Paltz.

In November 2018, unemployment rates fell by 3.9 percent, from 387,500 to 379,400, which is the lowest since August 1988, according to the New York Department of Labor.

The overall decline in community colleges is evident when the enrollment of individual schools is evaluated as well. SUNY New Paltz has experienced a two percent decline in enrollment since 2015, while Hudson Valley Community College has seen an eight percent drop and Clinton Community College enrollment decreased by 26 percent.

 “As unemployment surged during the Great Recession, so did full-time enrollment at community colleges across the country,” said SUNY Chancellor, Kristina Johnson, in a statement according to the Democrat and Chronicle. “With jobs at an all-time high now throughout the state, we have seen the impacts to enrollment at our community colleges.”

Eaton claims that a rise in employment has had a direct impact on the enrollment of SUNY community colleges and may potentially impact SUNY New Paltz.

Eaton claims that a rise in employment has had a direct impact on the enrollment of SUNY community colleges and may potentially impact SUNY New Paltz.

“SUNY New Paltz has articulation agreements with all five of our regional community college partners and the college enrolls many of their graduates as transfer students,” Eaton said. “We have experienced recent growth in new transfer students over the past few years and hope to continue to do so but the decline in community college enrollments will be a concern if they continue.”

In addition to a rise in employment rates, an overall decline in New York State population may also be impacting SUNY enrollment rates.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the overall New York State population has decreased from 2017 to 2018, approximately losing 48,510 residents. Counties located in upstate New York also appear to have lower populations compared to the rest of New York State. 

The decline in enrollment may impact how SUNY schools gain revenue and operate. Currently 77 percent of SUNY New Paltz’s operating budget comes from tuition, while only 23 percent comes from the state.

“All SUNY campuses rely on tuition revenue to operate,” Eaton said. “Therefore, a decline in enrollments means a loss of tuition revenue and that translates into an inadequate level of financial resources necessary to operate the institution.”

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About Nikki Donohue 88 Articles
Nikki Donohue is a fourth-year double major in history and journalism. This is her sixth semester with The Oracle. She has worked as a News Copy Editor and an Assistant Copy Editor.