SUNY enrollment shrinks amid lingering pandemic

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SUNY enrollment shrinks amid lingering pandemic

It’s the Shrinking University of New York.

Student enrollment at the State University of New York’s 64 colleges took another dip amid the lingering coronavirus pandemic.

The number of students dropped by 18,600 this fall at SUNY institutions compared to last fall — or 4.7 percent.

Enrollment has plummeted by nearly 40,000 since the fall of 2019, a two-year drop of 9.6 percent, SUNY figures show.

The COVID-19 outbreak first hit New York in the spring of 2020, canceling in-person classes and forcing colleges to switch to virtual instruction.

Over the two-year period, applications and enrollment of foreign students has particularly nosedived, at SUNY and other colleges nationally, officials report.

But the cratering enrollment is not just a pandemic phenomenon.

In 2011, there were 468,000 students attending SUNY. The number has steadily declined over the decade, to an estimated 375,620 for the new academic year.

SUNY enrollment numbers

Enrollment has particularly plummeted at the community colleges, falling from 247,667 students in 2011 to 163,259 this fall.

SUNY’s community colleges’ enrollment fell an additional 6 percent since last year and 15 percent combined compared to two years ago — when there were 192,950 students.

Enrollment at the senior or four-year colleges dropped by a more modest 3.6 percent since last year, from 220,296 to 212,361 students.

There was a bright spot — enrollment actually increased slightly at four SUNY’s flagship research/doctoral institutions (Stony Brook, Buffalo, Binghamton and Albany), from 112,265 in 2019 to 113,399 this fall

That’s actually an increase of more than 12,000 students at the research universities over the past decade.

A member of the SUNY Board of Trustees who chairs the academic committee studying enrollment, Stanley Litow, attributed part of the enrollment decline to a drop in admissions in high school students and a declining birth rate.

CUNY
The City University of New York has also experienced a decline in enrollment. The population at CUNY’s 25 campuses plunged by an estimated 15 percent.
(Kevin C Downs for New York Post

But Litow added that “obviously the pandemic had a huge impact.”

He said safety travel restrictions to curb COVID-19 undoubtedly put a dent in applications from international students at SUNY and other higher education institutions.

“The enrollment numbers are not as bad as people thought,” said Litow.

“There are some institutions doing quite well despite the difficult situation.”

Earlier this year, SUNY Chancellor James Malatras said student applications to the state-run public colleges were down 20 percent.

SUNY’s enrollment decline mirrors the loss of students at the City University of New York. The population at CUNY’s 25 campuses plunged by an estimated 15 percent or 33,000 students since the pandemic hit.

SUNY leadership on Tuesday discussed its SUNY For All marketing campaign — focusing on affordability and quality compared to other colleges in a bid to boost enrollment.

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