2020 Not 20/20: University to Reassess Jones’ Five-Year Enrollment Target
Twenty-thousand students by 2020: an enrollment target set two years back by a former University at Albany president. It’s subject to change.
Campus officials will reevaluate enrollment targets during the strategic planning process. The development of a strategic plan, the first of its kind since 2010, is expected to accelerate under President Havidán Rodríguez.
The new university leader at a Student Association Senate meeting two weeks ago said growth and retention rates will factor into population targets in the next plan.
Enrollment is projected to hit 17,700 this semester—400 more than last fall. Should projections reflect growth, the university will need 2,300 students within the next two academic years to reach 20,000.
“Is it feasible? Is it possible?” said Rodríguez. “I don’t know. That’s a lot of students to recruit, right? And with that we have to establish initiatives to get that process moving very quickly.”
UAlbany President Robert Jones in 2015 pushed the 20,000-student mark to reverse what was a nearly decade-long enrollment dip. In an effort to combat the decline, he sought to expand high-demand academic fields, enhance student life, and deepen university coffers.
Jones launched the largest academic expansion in 50 years with the opening of two high-interest schools: the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity and the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Over the next five to seven years, CEAS is expected to attract roughly 2,000 students. Kim Boyer, dean of CEAS, expects the college to be two-thirds of the university’s eventual 20,000-mark.
However, he doesn’t expect the university to reach Jones’ five-year goal.
“You and I both know―here we are in the fall of 2017, so we’re not going to be at 20,000 by the year 2020 as President Jones was targeting,” said Boyer. “But yeah, it is just a number and it may move up or down or sideways.”
James Stellar, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, said Jones’ enrollment plan was subject to change. As long as the university is close to the mark, he believes both STEM colleges will supplement long-existing programs through university coffers.
Along with CEAS and CEHC, Stellar considers the Excelsior Scholarship a potential growth factor this year. An initiative under Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the program covers tuition for full-time undergraduate students from families making less than $100,000, and less than $125,000 by 2020.
Reported last week by Gannett, over 1,000 UAlbany students have been granted the scholarship. University officials expect the number to climb throughout the semester.
“We think [the freshman class] came about from reputation,” said Stellar. “We think the transfer students came about from reputation plus the Excelsior Scholarship.”
Over 1,300 students transferred to UAlbany this fall. The freshman count was 2,800, the largest incoming class in university history.
With the increasing student population, some students have floated concerns over future housing. Amanda Demma earlier this fall included reevaluating admission standards to reduce the number of students living in lounges and forced triples as part of her platform in a failed University Council run.
“I think where I’m coming from is that we have to address enrollment,” said Demma.
Rodríguez said in an interview last month that housing will be evaluated during the strategic planning process.
Currently, the university has no plans to expand housing. Administration has been in talks over possible solutions to ease housing in the future. This includes reevaluating the underclassmen housing requirement or partnering with ASPEN.
Among other responses to increasing campus populations, Parking & Mass Transit Services has weighed opening up a new lot on the east side of Indian Quad.
Parking during peak hours is at 99 to 100 percent capacity on Indian Quad and Colonial Quad, 90 percent on State Quad, and 60 percent on Dutch Quad.
“Space is always a concern, right? Whether it be classrooms, whether it be parking spaces,” said Jason Jones, director of PMTS. “Yes, that is on our radar.”
University services have never accommodated student populations over 18,500. Enrollment last peaked in 2008 at 18,202.
Between 2008 and 2011, student numbers plunged five percent.
Administration during that time faced headwinds after slashing humanities programs. UAlbany President George Phillip defended the call, citing low enrollment and large cuts from the state in the wake of the Great Recession.
Paul Stasi, vice president of academics for United University Professionals, said at a presidential search forum last semester that the relationship between the university administration and faculty impacted by the cuts has not healed. “It’s good to expand, but we can’t lose sight of the core academic mission.”