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Cost goes up, student population goes down

by Kari Ashworth - Copy Editor
Tue, Sep 10th 2019 11:00 pm

 

 

The College at Brockport has experienced a drop in enrollment for the 2019-20 school year. While the numbers are not yet official, the college is expecting to be down between 150 to 200 students. 

“It’s hard to predict yet,” Director of Admissions Robert Wyant said. “That number we’ll have more of a handle on in the coming weeks.” 

Wyant said there are a number of factors regarding the drop in enrollment this school year. For starters, there is a declining number of high schoolers graduating. 

According to the Empire Center, an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, NY, state public school enrollment is the lowest it has been in at least 30 years. 

The report also states, “including charter schools and pre-kindergarten programs, New York public school enrollment in the 2018-19 academic year was estimated at 2,578,135, down 30,338 pupils from the previous year and at its lowest level since the 1990-91 count of 2,540,944, according to the State Education Department.” With the lower enrollment in primary education, lower enrollment rates in the SUNY system will also be seen. 

The drop in enrollment also looks notable this year after having “a significant spike” in applications last year. This was in part due to the Excelsior Scholarship, which targets middle class families and helps to ease the financial strain of college. Introduced in the fall of 2018, “free” college in the SUNY system skyrocketed the amount of applicants to state universities. 

A financial aid advisor at the college, Thomas Hickey, also agreed that the spike seems more significant than it is. 

“As Robert [Wyant] was saying, because of the Excelsior [Scholarship], it did cause a spike [in applications],” Hickey said. “There’s more of a—and I don’t know if it’s a dramatic difference—but there’s more of a difference because of the previous years spiking.” 

Although some may think the drop in enrollment will affect the college’s day-to-day functions, Vice President of the Division of Administration and Finance, Jim Walls is confident that the college has “everything under control.” 

“I mean, obviously I think it’s been considerable; I know that enrollment’s been down,” Walls said. “Currently, we don’t see any impact on student services at this time. We have some projects that were currently looking for some short-term and long-term [plans] that are more operational in nature in terms of like our facilities costs.” 

Walls also said student services have and will continue to run smoothly. 

“[Residential] life is still moving along,” Walls explained. “I mean, we’ll be down in terms of the number of beds. You know, food services will continue as usual; Usually what happens is we bring less food in. I think we have everything under control for the 19-20 academic year.” 

As for the rising cost of attendance at The College at Brockport as well as other SUNY colleges, that does not affect the number of total students enrolling at the colleges. 

According to Hickey, tuition has increased roughly $200 every year for the past four years. 

“They used to, in the olden days, wouldn’t increase tuition for years,” Hickey said. “Then at some point, of course after four or five or six years, they were like ‘hey, we have to increase tuition’ and then anybody who’s reelection might be on the horizon didn’t want to vote for a tuition increase, so they said ‘hey, why don’t we increase tuition $200 a year over a five year period?’” 

Much of students’ tuition at the college is set by the state, and there is not much variation between different state institutions because they are all vying for the same students, Hickey explained. There are local fees, however, that are set by the college and approved by the state, such as Brockport’s athletic fee and housing fees. Regardless, Hickey does not see a correlation between the drop in enrollment and the rising cost of tuition. 

“If all of a sudden we had an influx [of students] and took in 3,000 freshmen, that wouldn’t change the tuition rates,” Hickey said. 

While enrollment may be down, the college is confident that there is nothing to be concerned about in the long run. 

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