The State University of New York (SUNY) system has reported an increase in total enrollment for the first time in a decade, according to a release from Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office and SUNY. The total enrollment for the 2023-24 school year rose by 1.1 percent to 367,542 students, with undergraduate first-time enrollment up by 4.3 percent across all sectors.
However, this positive trend contrasts with the financial struggles of certain SUNY campuses, including SUNY Geneseo, which is experiencing a significant financial crisis.
Despite an increase in first-time students at SUNY Geneseo (+13.1%), the college’s total enrollment has decreased by 6.2 percent compared to the last school year. SUNY Geneseo President Denise Battle, in a letter to college staff, declared a $10 million financial crisis, imposing a hiring and travel freeze. This measure, described as “alarming” in the letter, reflects the dire financial situation at the college. Fred Kowal, president of the United University Professions (UUP) union, attributes this crisis to budget cuts and austerity measures dating back to the Great Recession of 2008 and the subsequent years under Governor Andrew Cuomo.
This financial strain is not isolated to SUNY Geneseo, with UUP reporting deficits at 18 other SUNY campuses, including Albany, Brockport, Buffalo State, and Oswego. The challenges at Geneseo, however, are highlighted by its unique implementation of a hiring and travel freeze. While the Geneseo letter notes exceptions for critical operations and health and safety, the freeze’s impact is significant. Despite a $163 million increase in this year’s state budget for SUNY, UUP argues that more financial support is needed to address these deficits. The situation at SUNY Geneseo and other campuses underscores the complex interplay between enrollment trends and financial stability in higher education.
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