By Aleksandra Sidorova
The Plattsburgh Next Steering Committee presented a strategic plan to guide the development of the SUNY Plattsburgh campus for the next three years — in a webinar Tuesday, Feb. 22. The plan is also available online on the SUNY Plattsburgh website in PDF format.
The Steering Committee consists of 31 members across faculty, staff and the student population, including the three presenters: President Dr. Alexander Enyedi, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Anne Herzog and Dr. Gary Kroll, former chair of the Faculty Senate and now a history professor.
The plan is based on data from 47 focus groups and 177 survey respondents, which the Plattsburgh Next Steering Committee collected within the first month of the Spring semester. The data was analyzed using SOAR, an alternative for the SWOT analysis model, standing for Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results.
The webinar opened with a moment of silence for Elizabeth Howell, a music education student at SUNY Potsdam who lost her life at the hands of a shooter Feb. 18, the previous Friday.
“Elizabeth’s death not only impacts us today, but it will impact many K-12 students who will never experience her talents and contributions in the classroom,” Enyedi said in the presentation.
Enyedi also acknowledged the impact of COVID-19 on SUNY Plattsburgh, and how the pandemic shaped the needs of both students and faculty as it continues for the fifth consecutive semester.
Transitioning to the roadmap, Enyedi gave an overview of its four “pillars” — areas that the college aims to improve in. They are: enrollment, student success, equity and inclusion, and involvement in the North Country region.
The largest problem that the plan tackles is decreased enrollment. Enrollment has been in steady decline over the last 10 years, dropping by 19.7% across all SUNY campuses. SUNY Plattsburgh alone saw a decline by 1,541 students — 24.3%, as Kroll shared in his presentation. The “dramatic demographic cliff,” as Kroll calls it, is predicted to affect the enrollment of all colleges in the U.S., not just New York. The primary reason for the phenomenon is the country’s declining birth rate, although the COVID-19 pandemic has also impacted many students’ decisions to postpone entering higher education.
“While it is true that COVID has been difficult over the past two years, demography has been even more difficult over the past five years,” Kroll said in the presentation. “COVID will go away. The problem of demography will not go away.”
The strategic plan set a goal to stabilize enrollment at 4,800 students by 2025.
“ is the year when the decline in enrollment becomes a kind of chasm,” Kroll said. “We have to be ready for that chasm. I firmly believe that this is a plan that will make us prepared to take care of that in 2025.”
The efforts to boost enrollment rates include the expansion of SUNY Plattsburgh’s applicant pool beyond the state of New York, with 67,000 emails already sent to prospective out-of-state students. Enyedi also highlighted the “I’ve Been Admitted to College” (IBAC) program, which invites local 8th grade students to tour the campus. Participants receive a certificate that would grant them admission to the college if they meet admissions criteria. Without intervention, enrollment for Fall 2025 is expected to be at 4,400. In the presentation, Kroll said:
“If you have doubts about this plan, if you have reservations, it’s completely understandable. But I would ask you to think about judging the plan in a year. The proof is going to be in the pudding: it’s going to be in the implementation and showing that we’re making progress.”
The plan also aims to improve student retention and graduation rates by increasing student financial support, revising the school’s budget and finding additional means of “resource generation initiatives.”
The next point in the plan is student success, which involves strengthening students’ sense of belonging by improving school facilities and student support services, such as mental health resources and accessibility. The plan also proposes to strengthen the college’s academics, with a particular focus on graduate programs and responding to the “career needs” of New York state.
Regarding equity and inclusion, the plan aims to “significantly” reduce equity gaps in education and employment, including the expansion of financial aid.
“Our priorities will be to be more intentional and deliberate about financial aid, and to develop need-based scholarships that span four years of attendance,” Enyedi said in the presentation.
The roadmap also promises an increase in “student-facing programming” at the Center for Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation as well as the Institute for Ethics in Public Life to increase student involvement in social justice.
SUNY Plattsburgh’s reaffirmed values highlight “environmental sustainability and social responsibility” and recognize its importance in the North Country community.
“We will continue to strive to be the preeminent public higher education institution in the North Country,” Enyedi said in the presentation. “We will be the academic and cultural center of the North Country.”
To involve itself more in the North Country, SUNY Plattsburgh will provide more opportunities for students, faculty and staff to explore the region with programming from Greek Life, and Housing and Community Living. Additionally, the college plans to “directly support” local schools, government and businesses.
In an effort to be more environmentally conscious, the school will establish a “Green Campus” initiative and participate in a “New York State Energy Master Plan.”
“The energy master plan will include an energy audit of our facilities and be used to develop a long range plan to reduce our footprint and reach NY State energy goals for 2025 and 2030,” the document reads.
To hold itself accountable for implementing the plan, the Steering Committee will assemble a team of “Accountability Partners” to “meet regularly with the President’s Cabinet.”
“This may sound cliche, but with respect to strategic plans, two things either happen to them: they sit on a shelf and they gather dust, or they get used,” Enyedi said in the presentation. “And for me, there are three important outcomes of any effective strategic planning process. I’ll share those with you right now: implementation, implementation and implementation.”