SUNY enrollment at 10-year high

The SUNY system, despite budgets cuts, is reaping some benefits of the struggling economy as enrollment increases and students recognize the value of state schools.

Between fall 2008 and fall 2009, SUNY enrollment increased approximately 3 percent to a total of 439,624 students spread across 64 campuses.

"In a time of difficult economic challenges for students and their families, SUNY clearly is the right choice for an accessible, affordable and high quality higher education experience," said SUNY Board of Trustees Chairman Carl T. Hayden in a recent press release.

Geneseo Associate Vice President for Enrollment William Caren agreed. "State schools are a great value for people who can't see themselves forking over $40,000 a year," he said.

While students certainly benefit from lower cost education, campuses also feel an advantage. While there is no additional state support if a campus chooses to admit more students, that campus is allowed to keep the tuition money they receive.

Caren said that it "makes it worthwhile for campuses to increase their admissions, especially with the recent SUNY funding cutbacks."

The increasing enrollment, however, is not just a direct result of the economic downturn, but rather a trend that has been growing for over 10 years. Since the late '90s, enrollment has risen 22 percent. "Geneseo was identified as a value years ago," said Caren. "Now we have to be far more selective than ever before."

Statistically speaking, minorities have made great strides within the SUNY system as well. Since 2006, minority enrollment has risen 3.8 percent to 85,023 students. Though this number may seem small in comparison to total enrollment, minority students comprise approximately 20 percent of SUNY population.

In Geneseo, the minority percentage is closer to 12 percent, as of 2008. According to the Office of Institutional Research, there has been continual growth since 2005, a pattern that has been fundamental to expanding multiculturalism on campus.

While Geneseo in particular has a long way to go in diversifying the student population, progress is continuing among the SUNY system as a whole.

According to Interim SUNY Chancellor John B. Clark, "Overall and minority student enrollment continue [to exhibit] strong upward trends, indicating that SUNY campuses remain highly accessible and help to provide a more diverse population on our campuses."