While UB is a magnet for downstate students, Stony Brook University barely registers with Western New Yorkers. In 2016, just 57 students from Erie County were enrolled at the campus on the North Shore of Long Island. The other SUNY centers, Binghamton University and the University at Albany, also attracted few Western New York students.
The number of students from Erie and Niagara counties who attend four-year SUNY schools statewide declined by nearly 18 percent between 2006 and 2016. But the decline doesn’t mean it’s become more difficult for local residents to get into UB, said Melvin. Admission rates for local students remain comparable to those for students from outside of Western New York, he said. And The News analysis shows that the percentage of all SUNY-going students from Erie and Niagara counties who attend UB has stayed constant at 46 percent.
The university has improved its presence in the Buffalo Public Schools in recent years, as well, Melvin said.
“We’re listening to the community that says, ‘We want more of our students at UB,’” he said. “When I arrived (in 2013), we were not visiting all of the Buffalo public schools. Now we are.”
The result: 90 Buffalo district high school graduates are enrolled at UB this fall, a 54 percent increase over three years ago, Melvin said.
Good for the classroom
But the biggest hotspot for new UB students over the past decade has been Queens, roughly 400 miles from Buffalo. In 2006, 569 undergraduate students from the New York City borough attended UB. The number more than doubled to 1,267 students in 2016. Fredonia and Buffalo State from 2006 to 2016 both saw nearly a tripling of the number of Queens students on campus.
Queens resident Jenny Ababio chose UB because she wants to be a pharmacist and, back home, none of the City of New York University colleges has a pharmacy school. She transferred into UB as a junior, after spending two years at CUNY York College.
“I like it. It’s nice and quiet over here,” she said.
The demographic shifts at UB have occurred largely unnoticed by current students.
But Gunnar Haberl, a junior from Elma who commutes to UB and is part of the university’s Student Association, said the trend can benefit students from Western New York, who get exposed to different perspectives.
Haberl has seen it play out in some of his political science courses, in discussions about the upstate-downstate political divide. While Western New Yorkers often feel that downstate interests outweigh the priorities of upstate, “we have students in those discussions that can tell you firsthand they didn’t see the money coming into their communities,” Haberl said. “It’s a positive dynamic in the classroom.”