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SUNY schools experience huge enrollment boosts

TIMES STAFF WRITER
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Enrollments at state colleges across the north country are setting records this year, owing in part to the economy, which makes higher education look more attractive than a shaky and competitive job market.


The schools also attribute their increased numbers to a variety of other factors, including expanded program offerings at SUNY Canton and not requiring standardized test scores at SUNY Potsdam.


"I think that the value of the SUNY system is really starting to come to the fore with everything that is going on across the state with the economy, not to mention the success that people are seeing of our recent graduates," SUNY Potsdam admissions director Thomas W. Nesbitt said. "We just flat out ran out of space."


SUNY Potsdam, SUNY Canton and Jefferson Community College all have seen higher enrollments than in 2009.


For the third year in a row, SUNY Canton has set an enrollment record, with 3,686 students, compared to 3,343 last year. The college is in the midst of a transition from a two-year to a four-year institution, adding six bachelor's degrees since the beginning of 2008. It is awaiting approval for at least two more programs, including communications and applied psychology.


"In our history, we've got 95 years that were two-year engineering and health programs," SUNY Canton President Joseph L. Kennedy said. "We are now branching into a new population. It's the population that is looking into baccalaureate degrees rather than a two-year degree."


Though JCC and SUNY Potsdam are not in the midst of fundamental changes, they both have seen growth this year as well.


JCC has 5,557 students, nearly 400 more than last year, and SUNY Potsdam's student body of 4,460 includes approximately 100 more people, as well.


JCC President Carole A. McCoy attributes her school's increased enrollment mostly to a tough economy and people who are looking to retrain after losing their jobs.


Potsdam's freshman class of 930 took the college by surprise; it was aiming at a more typical number of about 825.


"We had a very high yield rate," Mr. Nesbitt said. "Students that were accepted were far more likely to enroll than previously. Before we knew it, we were sitting on more than 900 students."


Most of the private schools in the area have not seen the same increases; both Clarkson University and St. Lawrence University have enrollment numbers that are relatively stable.


Paul Smith's College has seen an increase this year, but not necessarily because of its price tag. The college's marketing plan has become more targeted in recent years, said Kathleen A. Fitzgerald, vice president for enrollment management.


The college has 1,007 students, compared to 935 in 2009, its highest in nearly three decades.


Recruiting efforts for the class of 2015 are already under way, though it is too soon to say whether next year will be another banner year for the north country's colleges.


"We're already out and recruiting," Mr. Nesbitt said. "And so far the response has been good."

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