Plattsburgh State’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness filed a report that projected next academic year’s overall student enrollment at PSU to be 4,933 for fall 2020 and 4,447 for spring 2021.
In the past, Bryan Hartman, vice president for enrollment and student success, said these enrollment projections have been generally reliable.
With a decrease in enrollment, students can expect to help pay the difference.
The career services fee and technology fee are already set to increase next fall. With fewer students, they can also expect to pay higher tuition and mandatory fees.
“The reality is we will have to change the level of service,” Hartman said. “We will not be able to do everything we did two years ago a year from now, two years from now.”
Hartman said PSU will look to prioritize services that have the most significance to students’ experience.
“I’d be lying,” Hartman said, “if I said that there aren’t some areas we will have to eliminate something or reduce the number of services or hours. It’s not what we would hope for, but that’s the fiscal reality.”
Enrollment isn’t an issue unique to PSU. College enrollment in the North East has been declining as a whole due to fewer high school graduates and declining birth rates, but PSU has its own set of problems that could be holding it back.
“In our case, the problem is that we have a border with Canada, and then we have a border with Vermont,” Razvan Pascalau, the chair of the researching and planning committee and an assistant professor of economics and finance, said. “The only way we can grow enrollment is by going south.”
But with a declining population in the state of New York, there is increased competition between colleges fighting to recruit a decreasing amount of prospective students who are centered in New York City.
PSU’s geography, Pascalau said, works against itself as Plattsburgh is farthest from NYC within the SUNY system.
That’s why Pascalau advocates for an academic plan he hopes will make PSU more desirable for prospective students.
“I think there’s a change, a shift, in what students are looking for,” he said. “I think in the past, students were [thinking], ‘I just want to study what I like,’ but I think students now are more focused on the kind of jobs they get once they graduate.”
Pascalau points to areas of study that are seeing more demand within other schools and hopes PSU strengthens and markets those programs. Areas like computer science, cyber security, accounting and nursing.
“A lot of the programs haven’t changed since two or three decades ago, and it’s not the same marketplace,” he said.
PSU’s plan for academic renewal has fully reviewed nine academic programs so far with nine more being reviewed next semester.
PSU will review each program with four options in mind: market refresh, restructuring, reduction or closure.
“Everyone has to have this kind of discussion,” Pascalau said. “It’s not a pleasant discussion, but I think you have to look at what we are doing good and what we’re doing bad.”
Hartman also noted other difficulties the college had with recruiting. Its image after a racist Snapchat sent by a former student circulated campus in spring 2018 possibly made it more difficult to recruit students.
With PSU’s chief diversity officer role recently elevated as a vice president position under Michell Cromwell, Hartman has been appreciative of the change they brought and believes the changes will help form a new campus climate.
“They have been putting the lens of inclusion and equity in every conversation we’re having,” Hartman said.
Going forward, students can expect to pay the brunt of expenses from lower enrollment.
“It’s going to get worse before it gets better I think,” Pascalau said.
Email Fernando Alba at firstname.lastname@example.org