NEW PALTZ — For the first time in SUNY New Paltz history, the fall 1999 freshman class is filled to capacity several months prior to the start of the fall academic semester. “Never before in our memory,” according to L. David Eaton, vice president for enrollment management, “has SUNY New Paltz been put in the position of having to return deposits made by freshmen students hoping to attend the college in the fall.” Beginning May 12, New Paltz stopped accepting any freshmen deposits.
“During the past three years,” said Eaton, “we have increased the size of our freshman class from 690 to 900 students. We can go no higher. There is no more room, and we will not risk diminishing the quality of our programs,” he added.
Eaton said that the college is unable to support a larger freshman class. “Nine hundred is our limit. We do not have adequate classroom or residence hall space to accommodate a greater number of students.”
“As much as we would like to reach out and accept more freshmen at this time,” said SUNY New Paltz President Roger W. Bowen, “we simply cannot do so in good conscience. Our emphasis is on teaching and nurturing the growth and development of our students.”
According to Eaton, the decision to return deposits will not affect freshmen enrolling in the engineering program. “This is a relatively new program located in a new and expanded facility which opened in the fall of 1998. We have identified and are holding open appropriate spaces for students entering that major.”
“Nor will it affect a very small number of applicants who were admitted in late April and notified in writing that their deposits would be due by mid-May,” he added. “Those students know who they are and we will honor our commitment to them,” stated Eaton.
“Transfer applications will continue to be accepted,” said Eaton, “but we can no longer guarantee on-campus residency for new transfers who have not already paid an advance room deposit.”
“We are encouraging all accepted transfer students to pay their pre-enrollment deposits soon, because,” Eaton pointed out, “as with the freshmen population, we will be forced to return deposits when we reach our target of 700 students.”
“Applications have been at a record high this year,” said Mary Clair Bauer, director of admissions at New Paltz. “We have exceeded 11,000 applications, and they continue to pour in,” she said. For the eighth consecutive year, SUNY New Paltz leads all other university colleges in the State University system in the number of applications for admissions. “With an applicant pool this large, we continue to be able to be very selective,” 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.
“Denying access to students who did not meet early deposit deadlines is certain to create a distressful situation for a number of students whose first choice was SUNY New Paltz,” stated Eaton. “Unfortunately, this is a sign of things to come in public higher education in New York State. New Paltz is just a bit ahead of the curve. There are simply too few seats available and too many people who will compete for them over the next decade,” stated Eaton.
SUNY New Paltz is currently projecting an increase in enrollment over the next several years, provided there is adequate state support to fund this expansion. In order to accommodate this student growth, plans are being developed that will increase full-time faculty positions, improve the delivery of student support services and expand academic and recreational facilities.
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. “Coupled with a steadily decreasing drop-out rate,” said Eaton, “we know that a modest and controlled enrollment growth will be necessary in order to maintain our current level of accessibility. As the only comprehensive four-year public university between Westchester and Albany, the State University at New Paltz must continue to be accessible to students with high academic credentials.