Enrollment at local colleges continues to edge upward, with record levels in incoming classes and total students at the area's largest institutions and an expanding recruitment area for others.
The University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology have record freshman classes. At smaller local schools, such as SUNY College at Geneseo and SUNY College at Brockport, efforts to tap into new areas for students allowed the institutions to stem the loss of local students because of demographic changes.
Though UR's final student census is not completed until the end of October, preliminary numbers indicate there are 1,450 students in its incoming class, beating last year's record of 1,380.
Total undergraduate enrollment on the River Campus also grew, from 4,760 last year to roughly 4,900 this year. University officials have a goal of 5,000 students there.
In all of its colleges, UR has a total enrollment of 10,000, officials said.
At Rochester Institute of Technology, the shift from a quarter-based system to a semester system had created some uncertainty about transfer students and those seeking graduate degrees, but freshmen enrollment remained strong.
"We're pleased with the overall number and certainly with the incoming freshman class," said James Miller, vice president for enrollment management and career services.
This year the freshman class at RIT was 2,783, the largest in its history, and the university reached 18,292 total students. Miller noted that more than half of these students come from outside New York, and the university also has had growth at its international campuses in Dubai, Kosovo and Croatia.
In all, the enrollment at international campuses grew by close to 1.5 percent, reaching almost 1,400 students.
"If you look at what we said this time last year, we predicted we would cross 18,000 total students for the first time ever, and we did," Miller said. "There have been a few changes here and there, but we're staying right on course."
Though local demographics are continuing to shift, SUNY Brockport is starting to get a handle on the issue.
After several years of declining college-age students in Upstate New York and Western New York-with many more years of reduction predicted-SUNY Brockport and other Rochester-area colleges embarked on plans to reach new pockets of students outside Western New York.
For SUNY Brockport, that meant a renewed focus on the downstate region, including hiring two advisers to recruit in New York City.
That not only helped offset the loss from Western New York but increased diversity on campus.
"We have the highest diversity numbers we've ever had," said Randall Langston, assistant vice president for enrollment management. "Over 17 percent of freshmen are coming in from backgrounds of ethnic diversity, and we're delighted to see that."
The college has 1,081 freshmen and 8,128 total students this year, nearly as many as last year.
An increase in applications also has allowed SUNY Brockport to be more selective, with a freshman acceptance rate of 48.3 percent. The mean academic average for incoming freshmen is 90.38, Langston noted.
"The word is out on the selectivity at the College of Brockport," he said.
At SUNY Geneseo, the focus also has shifted to new recruitment areas where the potential for growth is greater.
Freshman enrollment reached 1,134 students and total enrollment was 5,653-up from 998 and 5,557 last year.
"Looking at demographics, high school graduates are declining almost all over the state, fairly precipitously in some places," said William Caren, associate vice president for enrollment services. "It's not as much downstate, so you've got to shift your focus in that regard."
SUNY Geneseo has made more effort to recruit in New York City and Long Island, where Caren said the population is growing. Last year Suffolk County took over as the top source of new students in the freshman class, knocking off Monroe County for the first time.
Application numbers this year remained largely the same as in past years, but the college did see a drop in transfer applications. Though the decrease was not sharp, Caren said it does appear to be part of a statewide trend.
There are challenges at SUNY Brockport as well, Langston noted. The economic downturn continues to affect students and their families, and SUNY Brockport is seeing more students who are having trouble affording higher education.
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