Thursday, 28 August 2014 00:00

SUNY Oswego Boosts Diversity, Geographic Draw with Incoming Class

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SUNY Oswego's new students accept a bright welcome from faculty, staff and students in the 25th annual Welcoming Torchlight Ceremony on Aug. 22 at the Marano Campus Center arena. SUNY Oswego's new students accept a bright welcome from faculty, staff and students in the 25th annual Welcoming Torchlight Ceremony on Aug. 22 at the Marano Campus Center arena. Submitted Photo

     Nearly 2,200 new students -- more than 1 in 4 from traditionally underrepresented groups and the most in history from outside Central New York -- started classes this fall at SUNY Oswego.

     About 1,420 freshmen and 750 transfer students enrolled, a large class but a bit fewer than last year's boom of just over 1,500 freshmen and nearly 800 transfers, according to SUNY Oswego Admissions Director Dan Griffin.

     The college's steady increase in students from diverse backgrounds -- ethnically, racially and socioeconomically -- continued; 26 percent of freshmen are from underrepresented groups, while underrepresented transfers comprise 19 percent of the total.

     "That sort of reflects what's happening in the state -- the whole state of New York is becoming more diverse," Griffin said. "But I think it's more than that. You have to be a welcoming place. I think if we weren't a welcoming place where diversity is celebrated and embraced, people catch on to that pretty quickly."

     Freshmen came to Oswego from farther afield than ever: The homes of more than 1,100 freshmen -- about 80 percent -- are outside Oswego and six contiguous counties.

     "I go back as far as 1998, and this is by far the smallest class from Central New York," Griffin said. "In 2001, the high-water mark, it was 526."

     STEM rising

     Driving that trend are fewer college-bound high school students from upstate New York due to birth rates and outmigration, and the college's multipronged efforts to recruit Downstate, in other states and internationally.

     "We attract students according to the programs we offer. Adding engineering is an example -- we're attracting different students into those programs," Griffin said. The college has added electrical and computer engineering and software engineering programs in recent years.

     Freshman enrollees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines are on the rise. At 407, the number is 30 more than last fall and 94 more than in 2012.

     "It's slowly evolving into a different college," Griffin said.

     With a record 11,020 applications to consider, the Admissions Office maintained the acceptance rate at about 49 percent for the third consecutive year. The overall quality is "a tick better in terms of standardized scores and GPAs," Griffin said, and the State University system's selectivity standards show a slightly stronger class as well.

     Among the many beneficiaries of Oswego's scholarships, the college welcomed eight new Possibility Scholars, more than half from underrepresented groups; 14 STEM Scholars, about half underrepresented; and provided "Destination Oswego" scholarships to nearly 100 talented students from outside New York state, including international students. Some of the new arrivals earned multiple scholarships.

      "Our scholarship program served us well in recruiting diverse students," Griffin said.  "We can provide hope to some students and we can provide a real enticement to others."

     The Admissions Office has moved on to fall 2015 recruitment, taking steps such as hiring a full-time counselor who lives and works in New York City and its metro area.

     "It's really going to be essential for us, because that entire Metro New York area -- including New Jersey, Long Island and in particular the five boroughs -- with the increase in the numbers and the interest and the demand there, it became just practically untenable to send someone down there all the time, so to have someone right there is going to be great. We're excited about that," Griffin said.

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