FREDONIA - State University at Fredonia students are back at classes - though there may be more room in some of those classrooms.
At a recent SUNY Fredonia Common Council meeting, David Herman, SUNY Fredonia vice president for student affairs, said enrollment has decreased slightly. The final total came in at 5,545 students; 5,251 undergraduates and 294 graduate students, a decrease of 185 students from 2011, or 3.2 percent.
Herman said the university's enrollment exceeds the SUNY budgeted annual target of 5,215 students, but there are several factors which contributed to the decrease from last year.
"For the last several years the Western New York high school population has been declining. You see it on the news where schools are learning they have surplus space and that's expected to continue for several more years. We've also graduated two large classes, both in the last two years ... This has led to a whole series of things that we are going to have to address but we were aware this was going to be a difficult year," Herman said.
Herman said the economy plays a factor in enrollment, with some prospective students believing it is not worth it to go to college. Herman said statistics show unemployment rates are lowest for those with a four-year liberal arts degree. Herman said a large portion of the decrease at SUNY Fredonia was in education.
"This is from this media blitz that there are no teaching jobs. It's not true. ... All of our math education students last year got employment. Many of our students get employment in the Sunbelt. We have 50 teachers that we know of that got positions in Texas. We know that in the five-year career projection there will be a lot of teachers retiring around the country. ... so this is a great time to go to school for education because when you graduate its going to be much better," Herman said.
"The Western New York high school population has been declining. You see it on the news where schools are learning they have surplus space and that's expected to continue for several more years."
SUNY?Fredonia vice president for student affairs
Herman said there is hope to regain the former numbers with increased numbers of international students and increased efforts to recruit students farther away. The campus will welcome around 200 HUFS students from South Korea in the spring, a number which is expected to grow to about 300 by 2014. Another helping hand in this will come from new initiatives to attract students in areas like science with the construction of the new science center. Herman said the completion of construction will also help in attracting more prospective students.
Herman said the university is dealing with the decline in local population by increasing its presence in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and further downstate through radio and online advertising. The number of college fairs SUNY Fredonia will attend this school year has increased 25 percent to 136.