College officials say economics and strength of programs are driving enrollment increases at all levels of SUNY colleges.
Both community colleges and four-year schools showed strong enrollment growth.
Schenectady County Community College’s full-time enrollment has increased to 2,231 this fall from 2,095 in the fall of 2007. Part-time enrollment is 2,897 this year compared with 2,822 last year, according to statistics released Thursday from the State University of New York.
Meanwhile, SUNY announced that total enrollment is the largest in history, with 439,624 students, according to preliminary estimates.
SCCC President Gabriel Basil said he attributes the growth to economics and enhanced reputation.
“The image of community colleges has improved quite a bit, and therefore, students are looking to come here to get a good start to their education,” he said.
Basil said the college is continually marketing its programs and the upward enrollment trend is continuing. He expects that spring enrollment will be up 6 percent to 7 percent. He believes the college would be able to accommodate the additional students in its academic buildings on campus. In a worst-case scenario, the college could add modular buildings.
Other area community colleges showed growth from last fall to this fall. Fulton-Montgomery Community College’s total enrollment went up 7.1 percent to 2,393 students, and Adirondack Community College went up 5.5 percent to 3,595.
Among local SUNY schools, the University at Albany saw a 2.5 percent increase to 18,126 students, SUNY Cobleskill went up 1 percent to 2,619 students and Empire State College went up 5.3 percent to 13,600.
UAlbany spokesman Karl Luntta said he believes the word is out about the student-centered education that the school provides.
“We offer excellent academics at a great value, ground-breaking research and scholarship, a richly diverse campus life and a strategic location in New York’s capital that enhances our programs,” he said.
Enrollment for the entire SUNY system has grown almost 20 percent in the past decade.
“This record enrollment is more evidence that students recognize the educational excellence offered by our SUNY campuses,” said SUNY Board of Trustees Chairman Carl T. Hayden in a news release. “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.”
SUNY spokesman David Henahan said that he believes this enrollment increase demonstrates that people in the state recognize the benefits of a SUNY education.
“The campuses have done an excellent job in marketing the value of an education in the state [schools],” he said.
It is still early in the application process, but Henahan said that campuses are receiving an increased number of applications.
“We’re also hearing from high school guidance counselors that some families have been affected by the fiscal crisis and are applying to the State University of New York,” he said.
The SUNY Board of Trustees on Wednesday also voted to increase tuition by $310 for the spring 2009 semester to bring it to $4,660. It will be $4,970 in the fall of 2009.
Out-of-state tuition will increase $1,130 for spring 2009, another $1,130 for the fall of 2009 and then will be up to $12,870.
The board also adopted a “rational tuition” policy that would implement modest, annual and predictable tuition increases based on an index that factors in the costs of higher education.
Critics said the move could make school unaffordable.
“For some students, this will be a perfect storm that may drive them out of college,” said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group.
This is the first tuition increase since 2003 and the second one since 1995.
Hayden said the tuition increases reflect the fiscal crisis and are needed to make sure the system offers “access for current and future students, maintains academic quality and supports research and economic development.”
All of these numbers assume a certain amount of state aid. SUNY officials are asking for $1.326 billion, which is an increase from the $1.172 billion the system received in 2008. However, Henahan pointed out that it is less than the $1.38 billion SUNY received in 2007.
Among the reasons for the increase is $72.8 million in negotiated salary increases, $45 million for student enrollment that is not supported by state aid and $25.6 million for energy costs, $8 million to recruit world-class research faculty and $2 million to expand high-needs programs like nursing.