NEW PALTZ — For the eighth consecutive year, SUNY New Paltz leads all other university colleges in the State University system in the number of freshmen applications received from high school seniors. At this early date, more than 8,500 applications have been submitted and the campus predicts that the final total will exceed 9,000, a benchmark not achieved since the early 1970s when the baby boom swelled college enrollments nationwide.
The New York State Education Department projects that this June’s graduating class from the state’s private and public high schools will number 163,000 students. About 68% are college bound. Based on the current application rate, SUNY New Paltz can expect that 8.1%, or eight out of every 100, of these graduates will apply for admission to SUNY New Paltz.
“Our target for the 1999 freshman class is 850 students,” said Mary Claire Bauer, director of admissions at New Paltz. “The larger our applicant pool, the more selective we are able to be,” she added.
New Paltz has been consistently ranked by national publications as one of the three most selective four-year institutions in SUNY, along with Binghamton and Geneseo.
To illustrate the point, Bauer emphasized that of those students accepted to date, nearly 600 are eligible to apply for admission to the college’s Honors Program, a distinction, she noted, that is reserved for those with a 90 or higher cumulative high school grade point average and combined SAT scores in excess of 1150.
For the past two years, New Paltz freshmen have had a mean high school average in the high 80s and a mean combined SAT score in excess of 1100. This has placed New Paltz in the “highly selective” category of admissions standards measurements which were recently adopted by the provost of the State University of New York, Peter D. Salins. These ratings are based on cumulative high school averages and standardized test scores and are listed as selective, very selective, highly selective, and most selective.
“Although standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT are important factors in evaluating a candidate’s aptitude for future scholarship, they cannot override the weight of grades achieved in college preparatory or Regent’s courses while in high school,” said L. David Eaton, vice president for enrollment management.
“The best predictor of academic success,” according to William W. Vasse, vice president for academic affairs at SUNY New Paltz, ” is prior academic success.”
When making selective admissions decisions, New Paltz considers a number of components, in addition to grade point average or standardized test scores. A student’s record of achievement in athletics, music, or arts; school and community service; and leadership are all factored into the admission committee’s evaluation of a potential student.
Bauer feels that high performance shows up everywhere in the exceptional student’s application. “More often than not, demonstrated scholarship, above average performance on aptitude tests, and a high level of involvement in extracurricular activities are mutually inclusive,” she stated.
“Several successive years of high selectivity in our freshmen admissions process is not only making a difference, but having a direct impact. We are consistently enrolling large numbers of students who strive to achieve excellence. This excellence is felt in and outside of the classroom,” she said.
Dr. Gerald Benjamin, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, offers the following observation related to a course he taught in the fall of 1998. “I had not taught an introductory course for a number of years. I was pleased. Many of these students could not only write, but write well. How they expressed themselves was impressive.”
“With projections that the number of New York high school graduates will steadily increase during the next six years, New Paltz anticipates a commensurate increase in applications,” said Eaton. “Coupled with a steadily decreasing drop-out rate, we know that a modest and controlled enrollment growth will be necessary in order to maintain our current level of accessibility. As the only four-year public university between Westchester and Albany, it is essential that students with academic credentials similar to those currently being offered admission to the college, continue to find New Paltz accessible,” he added.
SUNY New Paltz is currently projecting a four percent increase in enrollment during the next five years. In order to accommodate this student growth, plans are being developed that will improve the delivery of student support services, expand academic and recreational facilities, and increase full-time faculty positions. These plans are currently being incorporated into the institution’s strategic plan which is scheduled for completion and adoption this spring.