By JIMMY LAWTON
Universities in the Canton-Potsdam area continue to see strong applicant and enrollment numbers despite the competitive job market and state cuts to education.
Clarkson University has received a record number of applications for the 2013 fall semester and St. Lawrence University saw a 10 percent increase in student applications.
SUNY Canton, which received a record number of applicants in 2012, has seen a decline from 2012, but the numbers are still up from 2011.
At SUNY Potsdam, applications are still coming in and will be close, if not higher than in 2012, despite drastically lower levels of job prospects for education majors, who are a large portion of the college’s students.
Although area colleges continue to receive a strong number of new students, most do not plan to increase undergraduate enrollments. Instead, college officials say they will use the opportunity find students who best fit with the character of the school.
Clarkson University has received a record number of applications in 2013, according to Brian Grant, dean of admissions at the college.
"This year was a boom," he said. "We had been running about 10 percent ahead each year for the past few years, but this was a phenomenal increase."
Although Grant confirmed that the university received a record high number of applicants, he said Clarkson policy prevented him from sharing data.
Grant said the university received a lot of outside attention this year including an ABC News feature titled "12 Colleges Whose Payoff In Pay Beats Harvard."
According to the article, the average starting median salary of a Clarkson's graduate is $57,900, while Harvard students earn a median income of $54,100.
The school was also credited for its 96 percent job placement and was ranked 11 in the nation among the best engineering colleges by salary potential, according to PayScale.com.
"It's funny. It was one of those years where outside agencies seemed to be paying attention to us," he said. "One of the things that is so evident to me this year, is there is this incredible buzz from our current students. People are talking about us Facebook and Twitter."
Grant said the weak economy has probably pushed many students toward majors that lead to jobs, which well for Clarkson.
"Without a doubt, a school like Clarkson, which is focused on engineer and business and science is what the world needs right now," he said. "We are in a position where parents are very savvy and they putting more thought into where they are investing in education."
Grant said the increased number of applicants has not caused the school to modify its enrollment number,
"Our under graduate enrollment is about 3,000 and we are not looking to increase that number, because we believe it would take away what Clarkson is. A small intimate school," he said.
Although Clarkson does not plan to enroll a higher number of students, Grant said they have worked to engage potential students at a younger age and focused on attracting more students from the North Country region.
“We have seen more and more students staying locally, which is phenomenal for us. There is a tremendous number of students from Massena High School attending Clarkson. Last year we had more students from Massena than we had from any other school.”
St. Lawrence University
St. Lawrence University officials said applications numbers are up by about 10 percent from 4,037 in 2012 to 4,423 for the fall semester.
Jeff Rickey, SLU’s dean of admissions and financial planning said that is good news for the college as it attempts to draw from a dwindling population of regional students.
“With the demographics of the Northeast, the number of students is declining,” said Rickey.
Rickey said the smaller student population has led the school to adjust its recruitment strategy. He said SLU has increased efforts to connect with seniors at schools in New York and other Northeastern states.
Like the other local colleges, SLU has no plans to increase the first-year enrollment numbers, currently holding steadily near 640.
He said the initiative targets that seem like a good fit for the college and
Rickey said the school has not seen a lot of change as far as enrollments for various majors. He said economics continues to be St. Lawrence University’s main attraction.
At SUNY Canton, the number of applicants received is down from 2012, but still up from 2011.
For the fall semester, SUNY Canton spokesman Greg Kie said so far the college has received 4,256 applications, compared to last year's more than 5,000 around this time last year.
Kie said 2012 was a record-setting year for the college and was not in line with the average growth. He said looking at a five-year-plan, the college is right where it wants to be.
He noted that in 2011, Canton had only 4,111 applicants and that the school had seen consistent upward growth since 2005.
Director of Admissions Michael J. Perry said the college plans to enroll about 950-1,000 first-year and transfer students, which he says is pretty similar to years passed. And while the college does not plan to increase enrollment, he said it has attracted students who are more academically prepared.
"In line with the college’s mission and goals, we have become a more selective college. We’ve been targeting applicants with higher GPAs to focus our efforts on more academically prepared students by design,” he said.
“We are on target to make our goal of 950 to 1,000 first-time full-time students. We are also seeing further growth in our population of returning students. SUNY Canton has become an increasingly popular choice over the past five years, so our applicants are competing for fewer available spots."
In the past few years, SUNY Canton -- once a school that focused on two-year programs -- has expanded it’s offerings to include several four-year degrees. He said online courses offerings have also become more popular.
Although application number may have leveled off, SUNY Canton is seeing more students stay to finish their degrees, he said.
Student retention number have continued to rise in the past few years and that may be due to the school’s increased offerings. Kie said the expansion of athletics programs and Division III status has also may be a factor in the student retention increase.
SUNY Potsdam has received applications 4,163 including transfers for the fall semester so far. Last year the college received a total of 4,314
The college has also received 119 graduate applications to date. In 2012 Potsdam received a total of 137 graduate applications for the fall semester.
SUNY Potsdam spokeswoman Alexandra Jacobs said applications will be accepted until the day before fall classes begin.
“SUNY Potsdam is on target to reach its goal for incoming first-year undergraduate students this year. It's still too soon to say exactly where we will end up, because deposits are still coming in, but we are just about even with last year at this time, with about 440 accepted students making deposits to attend Potsdam,” she said.
“In addition, we are up for the number of transfer students coming to SUNY Potsdam for Fall 2013, with 116 students having made depositions, up 5 percent over last year (at this time).”
At SUNY Potsdam education students make up 85 percent of the graduate population. Jacobs said the economic decline and cuts to local schools had hurt enrollment for the past few years, but that rend seems to be changing.
“The college's master's programs in education did take a hit in the past couple of years, following the recession and budget cuts at school districts across the state,” she said. “However, we are starting to see the tide turn again.”