Area SUNYs see spike in stu­dents from down­state

Decade­long surge ex­pected to con­tinue as re­gion’s pop­u­la­tion of teens de­clines

The Buffalo News - - FRONT PAGE - By Jay Tokasz

Charles E. Joseph Au­gustin de­scribes him­self as a per­son of ad­ven­ture and ex­plo­ration. So when choos­ing a col­lege, Au­gustin was de­ter­mined to get out of Brook­lyn, with one caveat: He was on a public col­lege bud­get and only a State Univer­sity of New York cam­pus would fit the bill.

“I wanted to go as far away as pos­si­ble from my home, while stay­ing in New York,” he said.

A friend study­ing bio­med­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing at the Univer­sity at Buf­falo rec­om­mended he look to the west­ern part of the state. Au­gustin liked what he saw, and in 2015, he en­rolled at UB.

He’s part of a huge uptick over the past decade in down­state stu­dents who at­tend UB. The num­ber of UB un­der­grad­u­ates from Brook­lyn more than dou­bled be­tween 2006 and 2016, ac­cord­ing to a Buf­falo News anal­y­sis. Neigh­bor­ing Queens now boasts more UB stu­dents – 1,284 – than any other county in the state, ex­cept for Erie County. The surge of down­state stu­dents co­in­cided with a dra­matic de­cline in the num­ber of UB stu­dents from West­ern New York. A decade ago, half of all in-state un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dents at UB came from Erie, Ni­a­gara, Chau­tauqua, Cat­ta­rau­gus, Ge­ne­see, Wy­oming, Or­leans or Al­le­gany coun­ties. The num­ber has since dipped to 41 per­cent.

The trend is sim­i­lar at SUNY Buf­falo State, where stu­dents from down­state coun­ties now ac­count for a third of the en­tire un­der­grad­u­ate pop­u­la­tion, up from 12 per­cent in 2006. And at SUNY Fre­do­nia, the pop­u­la­tion of stu­dents from Bronx, Kings, Queens, Orange and Westch­ester coun­ties more than dou­bled over the past decade. SUNY Ge­ne­seo, lo­cated 40 min­utes south of Rochester and 75 min­utes east of Buf­falo, has al­most as many stu­dents from Suf­folk and Nas­sau coun­ties as it does from Erie and Mon­roe coun­ties.

The News anal­y­sis of 10 years of SUNY en­roll­ment data also found:

• The num­ber of un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dents from SUNY Fre­do­nia’s home county, Chau­tauqua County, dropped by a third, but the county con­tin­ued to be the num­ber two feeder of stu­dents to the col­lege, be­hind Erie County.

• Rochester and Syra­cuse sent fewer stu­dents to West­ern New York, but those cities and their sub­urbs still con­trib­uted sig­nif­i­cant en­roll­ment to area SUNY in­sti­tu­tions.

• West­ern New York stu­dents still pre­fer to stay close to home for col­lege. Very lit­tle of the de­cline among lo­cal stu­dents at

lo­cal SUNY col­leges was due to more stu­dents from West­ern New York choos­ing SUNY schools from out­side the area. More than 87 per­cent of the 15,855 un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dents from Erie and Ni­a­gara coun­ties seek­ing a four-year SUNY de­gree in 2016 at­tended SUNY col­leges in West­ern New York.

The down­state pres­ence on area cam­puses is ex­pected to grow fur­ther as West­ern New York pro­duces fewer high school grad­u­ates year af­ter year.

“The only geo­graphic lo­ca­tion that is solid for an in­crease of high school grad­u­ates is around New York City,” said Erin Alonzo, as­so­ciate vice pres­i­dent of en­roll­ment man­age­ment at Buf­falo State.

At­tract­ing out­siders

The in­flux of down­staters has con­trib­uted to a short­age of on­cam­pus hous­ing at Buf­falo State. It has also helped spur con­struc­tion of new apart­ments near Buf­falo State and the North and South cam­puses of UB.

Fresh­man Ben­jamin Schiller was ea­ger to leave Nas­sau County for UB, where he plans to study busi­ness.

“It’s so dif­fer­ent,” said Schiller, a grad­u­ate of Ocean­side High School.

On Long Is­land, he said, “every­one’s on top of each other. Be­ing here you can ac­tu­ally do your own thing.”

On a sunny Au­gust morn­ing, Schiller walked across cam­pus with his new room­mates, Ja­cob Gor­don and D’An­dre Cabr­era, also from Long Is­land. The trio at­tended dif­fer­ent high schools and didn’t know each other un­til meet­ing at a UB-hosted gath­er­ing of in­com­ing fresh­men ear­lier in the sum­mer in Nas­sau County. But they had sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments about be­ing in West­ern New York.

“Every­one has a nice at­ti­tude here, not the same at­ti­tude as in New York City. Very pa­tient,” said Cabr­era, who was sport­ing a UB Bulls tank top.

UB at­tracts far more un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dents from over­seas than it did a decade ago. The num­ber of in­ter­na­tional stu­dents do­ing their un­der­grad­u­ate work at UB more than dou­bled – to 3,309 in 2016 from 1,503 in 2006. They now make up 16 per­cent of the over­all un­der­grad­u­ate pop­u­la­tion. China sends the most in­ter­na­tional stu­dents to UB.

This year, that in­cludes Jixin “Jessie” Tang, a fresh­man psy­chol­ogy ma­jor. Tang said she found the en­vi­ron­ment at the Amherst cam­pus more con­ducive to learn­ing than her home­town, Ghangzhou, one of China’s largest cities.

“It’s very dif­fer­ent from most of the Chi­nese univer­sity cam­puses,” Tang said. “But I think Buf­falo is pretty good. I don’t re­ally like big cities. It’s too noisy and the pace of life is very fast.”

Amer­i­can stu­dents from out­side of New York are more dif­fi­cult to find at UB. They make up 3 per­cent of all un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dents, the same as in 2006.

Re­dou­bling re­cruit­ing

Buf­falo’sresur­gence­has­be­come a ma­jor sell­ing point for stu­dent re­cruiters in re­cent years. Buf­falo State in 2015 added a sec­ond staff per­son to its Man­hat­tan re­cruit­ment of­fice to help keep up with down­state in­ter­est. UB doesn’t em­ploy re­cruit­ing staff who live in the New York City area, but univer­sity rep­re­sen­ta­tives have been vis­it­ing more reg­u­larly and are re­dou­bling their ef­forts, par­tic­u­larly in Westch­ester and Rock­land coun­ties, said Lee H. Melvin, vice provost for en­roll­ment man­age­ment.

The univer­sity also reached out to New York City area alumni for help in lo­cat­ing po­ten­tial stu­dents. More than 300 alumni now par­tic­i­pate in re­cruit­ment ac­tiv­i­ties, up from 11 in 2013, said Melvin.

“We’re hear­ing from stu­dents that they’re ex­cited about the re­nais­sance of Buf­falo, so we’re pitch­ing the city in our ap­proach,” he said.

Many down­state stu­dents want to be at a city cam­pus, but out­side of the New York City area. Au­gustin, for ex­am­ple, was in­ter­ested in a cul­tur­ally di­verse en­vi­ron­ment, along the lines of his home­town. He’s still ad­just­ing to a Buf­falo sen­si­bil­ity that’s vastly dif­fer­ent from how he grew up.

“Peo­ple be­ing nice to you, will­ing to tol­er­ate you. That’s one thing,” he said. “There’s none of that in New York City.”

Stony Brook Univer­sity, which has a sim­i­lar aca­demic and re­search pro­file to UB, is just a 45-minute drive for Mi­randa Rusin­ski, who is from Hunt­ing­ton in Suf­folk County. But Rusin­ski had lit­tle in­ter­est in go­ing there. “Too close,” she said. In­stead, Rusin­ski drove 7½ hours to get to UB’s North Cam­pus in Amherst, where she now lives in a third­floor dorm room.

“I want to be an en­gi­neer, and the only SUN Ys that of­fer en­gi­neer­ing pro­grams are Buf­falo, Bing­ham­ton and Stony Brook,” she said.

Rusin­ski feels right at home on cam­pus. She said she prob­a­bly en­coun­tered more Long Is­lan­ders

Mark Mul­ville/Buf­falo News

From left to right, Cindy Ro­driguez, Oa­sis McBride, James Fox­worth, Lisa Lin and Kay­lyn Padilla move into Monarch 716 last month.

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