Fre­do­nia’s ef­forts

The Buffalo News - - CONTINUED FROM THE COVER -

Some State Univer­sity of New York com­pre­hen­sive colleges have strug­gled as much as pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions to at­tract stu­dents in re­cent years. SUNY Fre­do­nia, for ex­am­ple, moth­balled a res­i­dence hall a cou­ple of years ago when there sim­ply weren’t enough stu­dents liv­ing on cam­pus. En­roll­ment at Fre­do­nia dipped by nearly 800 stu­dents be­tween 2013 and 2017, help­ing to fuel of bud­get deficit of $8 mil­lion this year.

Col­lege of­fi­cials were en­cour­aged this fall by a small in­crease in stu­dents from 2016, in­clud­ing Fre­do­nia’s largest fresh­men class since 2008. They see other pos­i­tive signs for 2018, such as a third more ap­pli­ca­tions for ad­mis­sion at this time of year when com­pared with 2016. But the col­lege also is tak­ing a more long-term ap­proach to de­vel­op­ing prospec­tive stu­dents, in­clud­ing cre­at­ing a pre-col­lege out­reach of­fice that helps pre­pare stu­dents as early as sev­enth and eighth grade for the aca­demic rigor of col­lege.

The col­lege also has re­fo­cused at­ten­tion on nearby high schools. Some stu­dents from those high schools now can at­tend Fre­do­nia tu­itio-free and save fur­ther on ex­penses by com­mut­ing to cam­pus.

“We have a pretty nice size col­lege­go­ing pop­u­la­tion here,” said Cedric Howard, vice pres­i­dent of en­roll­ment and stu­dent ser­vices at Fre­do­nia. “If we do a bet­ter job of re­tain­ing stu­dents, it’s more cost ef­fi­cient for them and they’re more likely to re­main in the area and search for em­ploy­ment in the area long term.”

Howard an­tic­i­pates en­roll­ment climb­ing back to about 5,300 un­der­grad­u­ate and grad­u­ate stu­dents within three to four years.

Houghton Col­lege, a small Chris­tian lib­eral arts school in Al­le­gany County, is try­ing to turn around en­roll­ment de­clines through a se­ries of in­no­va­tive strate­gies, which in­clude a pledge to give grad­u­ates a free bonus year of col­lege if they don’t land a job or get ac­cepted into grad­u­ate school in their field of choice.

The col­lege also is of­fer­ing all new stu­dents in 2018 a $2,500 per year schol­ar­ship, and is in the midst of a $70 mil­lion cap­i­tal cam­paign to help fund schol­ar­ships go­ing for­ward.

“Ob­vi­ously, Ex­cel­sior was part of that equa­tion,” said Ryan Spear, di­rec­tor of ad­mis­sions. Sur­veys of prospec­tive stu­dents who chose an­other col­lege in 2017 showed that 22 per­cent picked a SUNY two- or four-year cam­pus. That was up from about 15 per­cent in pre­vi­ous years, in­di­cat­ing that Ex­cel­sior may have played a fac­tor in their de­ci­sion, said Spear.

The dearth in tra­di­tional col­lege stu­dents has prompted Houghton to pur­sue other pos­si­bil­i­ties. A few years ago, the col­lege launched a twoyear pro­gram in Buf­falo to serve im­mi­grants and refugees. The pro­gram boasts a re­ten­tion rate of bet­ter than 80 per­cent and now en­rolls about 60 stu­dents. It spawned a sim­i­lar pro­gram that started this fall in Utica, an­other city with a large im­mi­grant and refugee pop­u­la­tion.

“Where the North­east is go­ing to see gains is in the first-gen­er­a­tion, tra­di­tion­ally un­der-rep­re­sented stu­dents,” Spear said. “These are un­der­served pop­u­la­tions that fit with our mis­sion.”

News file photo

Pro­fes­sor Ron White, right, refers to a skele­ton dur­ing a func­tional anatomy class at D’You­ville Col­lege.

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