Enrollment is big topic at SUNY

Submitted Photo There are currently 390 students who are majoring in music at SUNY Fredonia.

Frank Pagano, SUNY Fredonia College Council President, often says that boosting enrollment must be the No. 1 priority for SUNY Fredonia.

He repeated that again at the council’s March meeting, and much of the session was devoted to the issue.

“There’s no secret we have declining enrollment over a 10- to 12-year period,” President Stephen Kolison said during his report, which was mostly devoted to the topic.

SUNY Fredonia has around 3,200 students right now, down from a high of more than 4,900.

Kolison said there were extenuating circumstances for the fall — a decrease in local population, and a general nationwide trend of heavier competition for a shrinking pool of students. However, he added there were also internal reasons for the enrollment decline.

Kolison mentioned “how you position yourself to compete.” He said, “We are looking at how to strengthen ourselves for the fewer and fewer students who want to go to college.”

SUNY Fredonia has brought in consultants on recruitment efforts in recent months, he continued. They “see things we did not see and strategize to help us position ourselves.”

One of the key findings: The school should move its admissions office from Maytum Hall to a centralized and more accessible location.

In addition, the consultants suggested filling the admissions director position as soon as possible, and creating a new vice president for enrollment management who would be “chief strategy officer when it comes to enrollment,” Kolison said.

He said the university loses too many students between acceptance in the spring and the start of freshman year in August.

The school’s trying to beef that up by heavily engaging accepted students with letters, postcards, email and other communications.

SUNY Fredonia gets 5% of its students from outside New York state, and 58% hail from Western New York. Calling that unacceptable, Kolison said, “There was a time where that was just good enough” — but it won’t be in the future.

A comment was made that recruitment of students from Puerto Rico ought to be increased. Kolison said he and Dunkirk Mayor Wilfred Rosas were already taking steps with that. Rosas would visit high schools on the island and talk up SUNY Fredonia, he said.

Kolison also said the school needs more outreach to high schools nearby, within a 50-mile radius. “There are some students who want to remain closer to home,” he said.

College Council member JoAnn Niebel expressed concerns that students were leaving because they were not academically satisfied. “Students are not leaving because of courses and faculty. That’s the least of our concerns,” Kolison said.

There was some good news later in the meeting: Enrollment for 2023-24 is running ahead of each of the previous seven years, according to David Starrett, executive vice president and provost.

He said a two-week free application window for all SUNY schools helped.

Echoing Kolison, Starrett said that yield — getting accepted students to attend school — is an important focus.

Starrett said he has personally signed more than 4,000 acceptance letters for 2023-24, and it took him about a week. He wanted to set an example, to emphasize that yield is important for all on campus.

“Every single department on campus has upped their yield game over previous years,” Starrett asserted.


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