Enrollment Surge
Nearly 2,200 new students part of enrollment surge

The college’s second consecutive large fall class of new students—coupled with more returning students living on campus—are filling up SUNY Oswego’s 13 residence halls, including the 12-building Village complex.

About 1,420 freshmen and 750 transfer students arrived on campus over the last week and a half, a bit fewer than last year’s boom of just over 1,500 freshmen and nearly 800 transfers, according to Admissions Director Dan Griffin.

“We are right on track to where we need to be, given the big bump we had last fall,” Griffin said. “We knew we were not going to need to repeat that. We knew we just wouldn’t have the capacity.”

Residence Life and Housing dealt with move-ins of 1,872 new students, 2,390 returning students, 140 resident assistants and about 100 first-semester-only international students—at a time when the college aims to take Waterbury Hall offline for renovations by mid-December.

“Making this all work is like a puzzle,” said Rick Kolenda, director of Residence Life and Housing. “It’s not a normal, traditional year and last year wasn’t either.”

Yet Kolenda anticipates that normal shakeout gradually will ease the need to have 87 rooms with triple occupancy, lounges housing three or four students each and even 130 filled rooms at Waterbury.

Delicate balance

Griffin said the delicate balance of residence hall capacity and enrollment shifted this year due to the increase in the number of sophomores following last year’s expansive freshman class; about 200 more returning students in all, including juniors and seniors opting for the residential experience; and the admission of more students from father afield who can’t commute.

This year’s freshman class includes only 270 from Oswego and contiguous counties. “I go back as far as 1998, and this is by far the smallest class from Central New York,” Griffin said. “In 2001, the high-water mark, it was 526.”

Driving that trend are fewer college-bound high school students from Upstate New York due to birth rates and outmigration, and the college’s multipronged efforts to recruit Downstate, in other states and internationally.

“We attract students according to the programs we offer. Adding engineering is an example—we’re attracting different students into those programs,” Griffin said.

With a record 11,020 applications to consider, the Admissions Office has kept the acceptance rate at about 49 percent for the third consecutive year. The overall quality is “a tick better in terms of standardized scores and GPAs,” Griffin said, and the State University’s selectivity matrix shows a slightly stronger class as well.

STEM rising

As the number of freshmen choosing to enroll in the School of Education continues to dip—down 49 from last year to 122 this fall—freshmen enrollees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines are on the rise. At 407, the number is 30 more than last fall and 94 more than in 2012.

“It’s slowly evolving into a different college,” Griffin said.

The same can be said for the steady increase in students from diverse backgrounds, racially and socioeconomically. More than 1 in 4 freshmen—26 percent—are from underrepresented groups, while underrepresented transfers comprise 19 percent of the total.

“That sort of reflects what’s happening in the state—the whole state of New York is becoming more diverse,” Griffin said. “But I think it’s more than that. You have to be a welcoming place. I think if we weren’t a welcoming place where diversity is celebrated and embraced, people catch on to that pretty quickly.”

Among the many beneficiaries of Oswego’s scholarships, the college welcomed eight new Possibility Scholars, more than half from underrepresented groups; 14 STEM Scholars, about half underrepresented; and provided “Destination Oswego” scholarships to nearly 100 talented students from outside New York state, including international students. Some of the new arrivals earned multiple scholarships.

“Our scholarship program served us well in recruiting diverse students,” Griffin said.  “We can provide hope to some students and we can provide a real enticement to others.”

So, as Residence Life and Housing continues to work the puzzle pieces for fall 2014 room arrangements, Admissions has moved on to fall 2015 recruitment, taking steps such as hiring a full-time counselor who lives and works in New York City and its metro area.

“It’s really going to be essential for us, because that entire Metro New York area—including New Jersey, Long Island and in particular the five boroughs—with the increase in the numbers and the interest and the demand there, it became just practically untenable to send someone down there all the time, so to have someone right there is going to be great. We’re excited about that,” Griffin said.

(Posted: Aug 22, 2014)