SUNY Oswego Department of Communication Studies finds challenges in current decline in enrollment nationwide

OSWEGO, N.Y. – The current trend of college enrollment is being noticed all across the country and has also made its mark on the campus of SUNY Oswego; in particular the Department of Communication Studies. 

According to a spreadsheet provided by the communications department, enrollment within majors of the department has decreased by just over 300 students over the past 10 years. Public relations majors took one of the bigger hits with enrollment being essentially cut in half from 176 in 2012 to 82 students in the major this past fall. 

Assistant professor Michael Riecke, who is part of the communications department, was aware that eventually this trend would hit the campus and also believes that there are also some beliefs by some students who may be afraid to join the media industry. 

“As media evolves and changes and consumer habits change, that has also changed the way students look at careers in that field,” said Riecke. 

However for Riecke, the change has revealed ways to improve how he teaches students to produce content. 

One of these lessons involves breaking down the barrier that defines broadcasting and being able to allow creativity and the transition between modern and traditional media.

“It is the language I think students get caught up in and they are not quite clear on how they adapt to what they are learning to these other platforms,” said Riecke. “I think we can get better and I know some of my classes I have integrated assignments across different platforms.”

Professors like Riecke as well as others within the department are transitioning for School of Communication Media and the Arts majors to use many components in content production such as live streams on YouTube as well as posting videos that are strictly for social media to 

The dean of the SCMA Jennifer Knapp, said that a name change of the term broadcasting would be something that the department would take a very in depth look at. This as well as take a large amount of pride in what the program has to offer at Oswego. 

“We know that our students are better prepared than anyone else that graduates from a comparable program, so we have an obligation to continue our program,” said Knapp. 

With Knapp taking over as the official dean as of March 2023, she anticipates that with the renovation and completion of the old Hewitt Union building located in the center of campus, that it could help increase enrollment in the upcoming years. Hewitt will become the new home for the broadcasting department as well as many others within the School of Communication, Media, and the Arts. 

“We are absolutely hopeful that the completion of Hewitt Hall is going to be great for our program, we hope that will boost enrollments,” said Knapp. 

However, the target date of the new state-of-the-art building according to Knapp will not be ready until at least the fall of 2025, which leaves professors in the department looking to provide positive benefits from the limited enrollment and involvement within communication major students. 

With Riecke and the department, he reflects back almost a decade ago where the enrollment was so large that it was almost creating a disadvantage due to so many students going into the same major. 

“From the late aughts to through the mid teens where our enrollment was just bursting at the seams,” said Riecke, “I think a lot of broadcasting faculty especially would argue that we had too many.”

Broadcasting majors at Oswego have declined very noticeably over the past decade and at the time that Riecke mentioned had about 440 students. Now that has completely changed, almost cut in half with currently only 223 students enrolled in that major as of Fall of 2022, according to the spreadsheet provided by the communications department. 

Riecke is also the advisor of the student run television organization and has seen positives on both sides from the classroom to the control room.

“Fewer students mean you may get more attention from your professors because they have fewer students in their classes,” said Riecke. “Students get more chances, or more opportunities to do things that they may have not had the opportunity to do just a few years ago.”

For Riecke, he wants students to recognize the opportunities and value when coming to Oswego and is looking to continue to make an impact in bringing current and future students into the communications field for years to come.