With the national economy in a downturn
and no relief in sight, SUNY’s affordability is looking increasingly
appealing. “When people are looking for a valuable education at a good
price, SUNY is a logical choice,” says Kathy Perry, director of
admissions at Onondaga Community College. The skyrocketing costs of gas
and food have hit the average American hard, resulting in rising
unemployment and overall financial strains on families. Therefore,
private institutions are no longer a reality for some students who are
feeling the effects of economic pressure. Not only do options for
potential enrollment become restricted as a result of the economy, but
student loans, which many depend on, are becoming harder to obtain
since banks are assessing their risks and reducing the number of loans
Fortunately, New York Gov. David
Paterson announced this summer a new commitment by his administration
to create a low-cost student loan program. New York is one of the only
states in the nation without a state-financed student loan program, and
Paterson is working to change that. His administration will be
proposing new legislation for this program to be included in next
year’s budget. If approved, the low-interest loan program will be
financed through revenue-backed bonds.
Paterson additionally confirmed to the
newly formed in 2007 Commission on Higher Education, a governing state
body of university presidents and stakeholders dedicated to improving
higher education in New York, that he agrees with their recommendation
for financial relief for SUNY. That includes a Critical Maintenance
Plan of $4.17 billion over five years which would include projects such
as construction, sale or lease of property and procurement. This
announcement is a move in the right direction for students, families
and SUNY institutions. After all, the recent economic struggles of the
nation and state influence both sides of the education table.
But for this year, the state’s
declining economy means SUNY once again isn’t getting the desired
relief to help keep up the standards. “There has been no tuition
increase in the past six years,” says SUNY Cortland president Erik
Bitterbaum. “We would like to have a modest increase in tuition to keep
up with our quality.”
SUNY tuition, at $4,350 per year for
in-state undergraduates, is a steal compared to the hefty price tags at
some local private universities; try Ithaca College, which totals
$30,606 per year, or Hamilton College, at $38,220 per year. “SUNY
rivals Ivy League schools, but at one-third of the cost for an Ivy
League education,” believes Brian Hazlett, director of undergraduate
admissions at Binghamton University. “Students are getting top jobs and
into graduate schools and there’s less debt on them.” The fewer the
loans, the easier it is to get ahead without worry, a fact that is not
going unnoticed by students.
Admission application numbers are
higher than ever before so getting accepted is becoming increasingly
difficult, even for top-tier high school students. “We’re all
experiencing record enrollments,” Bitterbaum says. “It’s very exciting;
very good students are getting in.” In 2007, Cortland had about 11,000
applications for only 1,075 openings.
“It’s more competitive; available spots
don’t increase so competition has increased for those spots,” says
Daniel Griffin, associate director of admissions at SUNY Oswego, where
applications went from 7,550 in the fall of 2005 to10,000 for fall 2008.
However, it’s not just the financial
strain that has led to this rapid increase. Use of Internet search
engines like Google has introduced SUNY to a new audience: those who
live out-of-state. “Binghamton is a school option for in-state
students, but out-of state and abroad as well,” states Hazlett, who has
seen applications increase from 25,039 in 2005 to 28,992 in 2007.
Improved advertising and new programs
have helped the College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF)
achieve record numbers of undergraduate applications as well, explains
Robert French, vice president for enrollment management. Applications
for the university of about 2,000 students increased by 704 between
2006 and 2008. “SUNY ESF has one of the highest increase in numbers
from outside New York state, which has been part of our growth,” French
Oswego’s Griffin explains that the
reason behind the application surge is a combination of several
factors: word of mouth from students sharing their enjoyable
experiences with friends, an increase of high school students who are
graduating (the so-called baby boomlet) and more students within the
SUNY system that are staying rather than transferring or dropping out.
Meanwhile, as applications continue to
pour in at record numbers, schools are doing their best to balance the
onslaught. One of the more immediate problems is how to house the
overflowing freshman classes. “The big challenge is available spaces on
campus, so we are making use of every available nook and cranny in SUNY
Oswego to house the students,” notes Griffin. This summer, in fact,
about 100 Oswego sophomores, juniors and seniors were asked to seek
off-campus housing to ease the dorm crunch. About a dozen students from
each class did so.
But Oswego isn’t the only SUNY having
to approach student housing creatively. Cortland had to triple up
several freshmen in dorm rooms last year and ESF has filled its
allotment of freshmen beds within SU dorms, forcing the school to house
about 14 freshmen at the University Sheraton Hotel this upcoming year.
Despite the housing crunch, there is
still very little negative to report about the upswing in SUNY
popularity. “The current circumstance of SUNY is good news for
students, alumni and the state because campuses have been attracting
students from inside New York and out-of-state and will help to keep
students in Central New York,” says Griffin.
Binghamton University, 4400 Vestal
Parkway E., Binghamton, is known for its engineering and science
programs in addition to a diverse student body, something that has kept
the school popular for quite some time. “Binghamton has been witnessing
students choosing state over private for years,” says Hazlett. This is
indicative of the institution’s waiting list and one of the largest
SUNY student bodies in upstate New York. A major research university,
Binghamton’s list of accomplishments has grown recently.
SUNY, especially Binghamton, has
increased in the number of appearances in major publications, notes
Hazlett. Binghamton University was ranked 16th among public
universities and 57th among public and private universities in the
nation by Forbes magazine in 2008. In addition, the institution was
listed as one of the nation’s top 50 public universities by U.S. News
& World Report for the 11th consecutive year. Hazlett points to
this national visibility as one of the reasons why enrollment is rising.
Since 60 percent of students live on
campus, new residence halls and facilities have been built to
accommodate them. In addition to new residence halls, plans are under
way for a new events center and a state-of-the-art engineering
building. “The campus has invested money into the faculty and resources
which helps the students,” Hazlett adds. “Plus, the alumni give back in
a lot of different ways.”
A new facet to Binghamton is the
Individualized Major Program, where students work with a faculty member
to design their own major, combining three or more majors into one
focused speciality. Some recent examples include: religion and the law;
a combination of courses from history, Judaic studies and philosophy;
and human social interaction, formed by combining psychology, sociology
and anthropology courses.
With a 90.4 percent rate of returning
freshmen and a student body that is one-third transfer students,
Binghamton must be doing something right. For more information on
Binghamton University call (607) 777-2000 or visit www.binghamton.edu.
Southern Tier standout: Binghamton University is attracting national acclaim and record enrollments.
SUNY Cortland, situated on Graham
Avenue in Cortland, is becoming a “hot college,” as Bitterbaum puts it.
The campus, which sits on top of a hill, is within walking distance of
the charming main streets of the small college town. Athletics are a
large aspect to the college, in both an academic and recreational way.
Popular athletic majors include sports management, athletic training
Although mostly known for its excellent
education major, Cortland’s academics are becoming more recognized.
Like Binghamton, Cortland has gotten national kudos, ranking for the
second year in a row in Kiplinger’s
magazine among its 100 Best Values in Public Colleges. Cortland has
moved from spot 97 to 89th this year for “outstanding academic quality
plus an affordable price tag.” Further, U.S. News & World Report listed Cortland in its 2008 edition of “America’s Best Colleges.”
In order to keep up with those
rankings, major projects are under way to give the campus a facelift.
Currently, the institution has been renovating one residence hall per
year, which the state has been generous in helping to fund, notes
Bitterbaum. Other projects include building a new education building
with a built-in day care for the use of city residents, a $51 million
budget for a new Student Life center, and the creation of a new wing
and renovation for professional studies.
However, Bitterbaum stresses that fancy
buildings and polished scenery are not the true testament to a
university’s excellence. “Even if you have nice buildings, without
great people inside of them, it’s worthless.”
Teacher’s pet: SUNY Cortland’s new School of Education building is slated to be completed by Jan. 7, 2009.
In addition, Cortland owns a piece of
property on Raquette Lake in the central Adirondacks. The property
houses cabins and a wireless classroom where art and biology students
take weekend trips to study the landscape or examine water. Cortland
also opened up a Civic Engagement Center at 9 Main St., Cortland, a
little over a year ago, providing a window into the community for
students who work in conjunction with community outreach programs such
as the Boys & Girls Club.
While attending Cortland, incoming
senior Elizabeth Tucker was introduced to another side of New York
state, and that was an education in itself. “The geographic landscape
of upstate New York is something I have never seen or knew the state
had,” Tucker admits. “I don’t think I would have gone upstate unless I
went to Cortland; I will definitely visit upstate more. I’ve never seen
a fall as beautiful as Cortland.”
Tucker is from Lynbrook on Long Island;
she transferred to Cortland her sophomore year from the School of
Visual Arts (SVA) in Manhattan. “I transferred because I didn’t want to
be in the city, I wanted the college experience with a campus and
community,” Tucker explains. Applying to Albany, Binghamton and
Cortland, Tucker initially chose Cortland because it was one of the
only SUNY schools that accepted all of her credits from SVA. She soon
grew to love the area.
“I like seeing familiar faces on
campus, it’s nice to recognize people, it’s like a small community,”
the New Media Design major says. “Cortland is in a great location
because it’s close to the nature of Ithaca and the city of Syracuse.”
For more information on SUNY Cortland call (607) 753-2011 or visit www.cortland.edu.
College of Environmental Science and Forestry
SUNY ESF, 1 Forestry Drive, is one of
the smallest SUNY schools with one of the biggest reputations. ESF was
listed in the 2006 ninth edition of Barron’s Best Buys in College Education
as one of only five SUNY schools among the 247 colleges listed. A
special honor which the college holds dear is selection as one of 71
colleges in the 2007 edition of Miriam Weinstein’s Making a Difference Colleges Guide
(Sage Works Press). The listing features colleges that actively support
social and environmental responsibility, actually one of the main
foundations of the institution.
“Our students are very well qualified
but what makes them interesting is their passion for the environment,”
says French. “Our motto here is practice what we teach.” This mentality
of environmental awareness and conservation that is taught in the
classrooms and put into action by the student body was happening years
before the recent green movement caught fire.
“With interest in the green movement at
an all-time high, generations of students are now interested in
environmental issues and problem solving; there is no better time to be
in an environmental college than today,” notes French. With society
going green, opportunities and occupations involving environmental
science or knowledge are in demand.
As students are clamoring to get in on
the green, ESF is filled to the brim. French says the school will be
looking into building dorms in the near future. Other projects include
renovating campus grounds, with more than $1.5 million in landscaping.
This will include a rain garden that will be built to capture rainwater
off the roof of Illick Hall and put it into the garden.
Can’t beat this heat: Workers install
heating coils outside SUNY ESF’s library. The coils have since been
covered in Flexi Pave, a 50-50 mix of stone and recycled tires, that
allows water to flow through to the ground, reducing stormwater runoff.
In the winter, the heating coils will melt snow and ice, eliminating
the use of sand and salt, which will prolong the life of the newly renovated library.
One feature that makes ESF stand out
from the rest of the SUNY institutions is its symbiosis with next-door
Syracuse University. “SUNY ESF’s relationship with SU goes back to when
we were founded in 1911,” explains French. “We’ve always been a partner
with SU.” This partnership means that ESF students have the advantage
of taking certain SU courses, living in SU housing, sitting in the SU
student section at sporting events, joining SU clubs, and using SU’s
library and computer facilities. This doesn’t go unnoticed by
“We have access to one of the biggest
and best universities in the country and you can do this all while
paying a SUNY tuition,” French says. However, there are plenty of other
advantages to ESF, including a 2-year-old major in bio-process
engineering that focuses on the chemical engineering involved in making
Former New Times
music editor Nathan Turk, originally from Chittenango, is currently
obtaining his second bachelor’s degree at ESF in forest engineering and
is slated to graduate in 2009. “I had been wanting to go back to school
for awhile to hone my interest in math and with ESF I was able to
combine that with helping the environment,” Turk explains. Turk says he
enjoys the rigorous classes because they provide a challenge and he is able to have a lot of individual attention due to the school’s small size.
Previous to ESF, Turk attended
Binghamton University, graduating in 2002 with an English degree.
Binghamton was his choice the first time around due to the location and
price and, Turk adds, the excellent faculty and programs.
For more information on ESF call 470-6500 or visit www.esf.edu.
SUNY Oswego, 7060 Route 104, Oswego, is
a sprawling campus set against the picturesque backdrop of Lake
Ontario, which provides beautiful views year-round, especially in the
summer and fall.
“In recent years the quality of the
education and faculty are getting more attention than ever,” explains
Griffin. This includes increased applications from hopeful students and
the national publications that are recognizing Oswego’s academic
programs. The Princeton Review listed Oswego as one of the best 290 business schools in the country. The Review
also heeded the college’s broadcasting/mass communications, journalism
and graphic design programs, which were listed in “Television, Film and
Digital Media Programs: 556 Outstanding Programs at Top Colleges and
Universities Across the Nation.”
As mentioned earlier, Oswego is facing
the trial of accommodating the surge of incoming freshmen and transfer
students. Having experienced a 35 percent increase in freshman
applicants over the past three years, and with the highest freshmen
enrollment ever this upcoming fall (nearly 1,500), the college is
tackling this task head-on. A new housing project, The Village, will
include townhouses so that upperclassmen who wish to live on campus can
do so without feeling like they’re living in a dorm. The project is
slated to open for the fall of 2010.
Along with the proximity to Lake
Ontario, some of the other advantages of Oswego are the wide variety of
science and biology programs offered. Zoology and meteorology are just
two examples of majors not typically found at other SUNY schools.
Sophomore Allison Angona from Syracuse
says she decided to attend Oswego because of its desirable location.
“It’s close enough to home, but far enough to get some space,” she
says. An undeclared major, Angona enjoys the friendly people, dorm
atmosphere and the setup of the campus. “I like how the educational
buildings are close; you can walk to them.” Angona applied to Cortland,
Niagara and Oneonta as well, but the tour of Oswego won her over with
the open and friendly guides.
For more information on SUNY Oswego call 312-2250 or visit
Onondaga Community College
When people think SUNY they default to
the four-year schools, but the two-year facilities are becoming popular
as well. OCC, 4585 W. Seneca Turnpike, was recognized in 2007 by Community College Week, a
national publication, as one of the fastest growing community colleges
in the nation. For two consecutive years, OCC has had the largest
percentage enrollment increases among all 64 SUNY schools—both two- and
four-year. The construction of three residence halls that opened in
2006, which hold up to 600 students, has OCC stepping up its game to an
exciting new level.
“Our residence halls are at capacity,
and a large number of students are on the waiting list for housing,”
says Perry. There is talk of expanding the halls in the future. “OCC is
becoming a college of choice rather than last resort,” notes Perry.
“You find things at OCC you would find at any four-year school and it’s
close to home.”
Students are taking advantage of OCC’s
programs and price before venturing on to other schools. One new
program is a degree in professional communication; it teaches students
how to obtain successful communication skills, a growing need from
businesses. OCC is the only two-year school in the area that offers it,
says Kim Court, OCC’s marketing communications coordinator.
Many four-year schools pay attention to
OCC as a source of incoming upperclassmen. Binghamton, for example,
recruits directly from the community college campus, says Perry.
OCC has the built-in advantage of
students starting at the two-year, community college level, gaining
experience in programs and narrowing their field of interest without
spending thousands of dollars at a four-year school first. “Sixty-five
percent of our students are enrolled in transfer programs here,” Perry
For more information on OCC, call 498-2622 or visit www.sunyocc.edu.