SUNY chancellor visits SUNY Cortland, speaks on current state

SUNY Chancellor John B. King Jr., right, visited the SUNY Cortland campus on Thursday. Also pictured is SUNY Cortland president Erik J. Bitterbaum. (Photo provided by Timothy A. Bennett, Owner & Publisher of The Cortland Voice).

SUNY chancellor John B. King, Jr. visited SUNY Cortland on Thursday, taking in what the campus has to offer.

“SUNY Cortland comes across as a special place as you talk to students, faculty and staff. There’s a lot of passion for SUNY Cortland,” King said to The Cortland Voice on Thursday.

King discussed a variety of topics on Thursday, including the well-being of students and the state of enrollment at SUNY Cortland and other SUNY campuses.

All college campuses, including SUNY’s institution across the state, are thinking of ways on how to support the well-being of students, King said. This includes, he added, addressing mental health challenges and the journey to fully recovering from the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Generally, it’s about optimism for the future of SUNY Cortland and enthusiasm about graduating,” King said.

Disruptions during the pandemic bulked issues with low enrollment at campuses across the country. King noted that aside from SUNY Cortland, colleges nationally have seen “significant enrollment challenges” even before covid, but more so during the pandemic.

King mentioned SUNY wants to help students find their path in education.

“We are very committed to continuing to grow enrollment at SUNY,” King said. “That means we’ve got to make sure we’re reaching out to 18 year-olds, but also to one-to two million New Yorkers who have some credits for their degree, reaching those New Yorkers who want to move up in the workplace, but also need additional skills and those who had their education disrupted by covid.”

According to numbers from school officials, SUNY Cortland accepts around 1,200 students out of 12,000 applicants per school year. For the 2022-23 school year, the university saw 18,000 applicants, which forced them to close the application process.

“We saw a significant increase in applications really across the SUNY system,” King said. “Part of that was driven by a period during the fall when we had two weeks of free applications, so students increased the number of campuses to which they were applying.”

King noted nationally, high school seniors are applying to a larger number of schools, including SUNY’s array of institutions. He added SUNY has been working to turn those applications into an opportunity for students to see the campuses. 

SUNY Cortland, King said, has seen success in giving potential students the opportunity to visit faculty, students and the facilities offered by the campus.

“I noticed a strong sense of community here at SUNY Cortland,” King said. “Students appreciate the attention they get from faculty. It’s because of the smaller class sizes and smaller campus environment, compared to some of the larger research institutions.”

To ensure personal attention for each student, SUNY is taking part in “cascading” admissions, King said.

“If a student applies to a SUNY four-year institution and they don’t get in, we’re actually reaching out to them from other campuses and saying there’s actually a place for you here,” King added.

King noted if a prospective student doesn’t hear from a university like SUNY Cortland, they’ll hear from other SUNY institutions.

SUNY goes as far as sending personal letters to students with their names on it to ensure a welcoming experience. Students, according to King, appreciate the support on the transition to what’s next in life.

“We want to make sure every student in New York knows there’s some place for them at SUNY,” King said. “If they want high quality education, they can get it at SUNY.”