The number of students attending the State University of New York (SUNY) at Cortland has seen a steady, slight decline since 2017, but college officials say the university has done a good job at mitigating the lower enrollment numbers when compared to other schools in the SUNY system.
In 2017, SUNY Cortland registered 6,913 students, according to statistics provided by university officials. That number has seen a steady decline since, with the university reporting 6,858 students in 2018, 6,834 in 2019, 6,832 in 2020, and 6,662 this year.
“This fall’s enrollment is likely related to the ongoing pandemic, and is consistent with what college campuses across the country have seen,” SUNY Cortland director of communications Fred Pierce said. Pierce estimated the decline from last year to now at approximately 2.5 percent.
“In fact, the 2.48 percent decline is the smallest enrollment loss this fall among any of the SUNY four-year comprehensive campuses,” he added.
The latest numbers registered on the SUNY system’s website were tallied in the fall of 2020, when the state’s university reported having 394,220 students as part of the student population across its 64 campuses scattered throughout the state. The fall 2020 numbers signify a drop in enrollment of 5 percent from the year prior, when the university reported having an enrolled student population of 415,572, according to SUNY’s records.
Pierce noted this decline in enrollment could be attributed to regional demographic changes.
“Long term, we are seeing the impact of demographic changes in the northeast: the number of college-age students in New York and surrounding states has declined, creating greater competition among institutions for fewer potential students,” he said.
Despite the lower enrollment, Pierce said the university has stayed consistent, reaching enrollment goals.
“We have done well and have consistently met our enrollment targets thanks to strong academic programs, new student recruitment efforts and recognition as one of the best value educations in the Northeast,” he said.
Students across the SUNY system could face disenrollment due to non-compliance with the state’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate. State officials imposed a deadline for Sept. 27 when students should receive their first dose of the vaccination.
SUNY Cortland president Erik J. Bitterbaum said in a statement Friday that close to 93 percent of students are fully vaccinated. Vaccination rates for students and faculty are available on the university’s “myRedDragon” portal, which is only accessible with university credentials.
“The rate of fully vaccinated individuals will rise as students complete their required two-week waiting period after their last shot,” Bitterbaum added.
Bitterbaum also noted there were some exceptions to the vaccination mandate.
“The only exceptions to the mandate are students with approved exemptions and students with all-remote schedules who will not come to campus this semester,” he said. “A very small number of students did not respond by the deadline. SUNY has given campuses a 10-day grace period to contact these students and try to bring them into compliance.”
Bitterbaum encouraged students to get vaccinated, stressing that “although we are doing well, it is important to remain vigilant and work together. The prevalence of the Delta variant shows us that we cannot rely on vaccination alone.”
“Fully vaccinated students will be able to enjoy the full SUNY Cortland experience this fall,” he said. “That is why I am urging any students who have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19 to make plans to receive it as soon as possible. It can take as long as six weeks from your first shot for you to be fully immunized so there is not much time to spare.”