Fewer students come from Oswego County, more from New York City, Long Island


Photo provided by Daniel O'Connor
Photo provided by Daniel O’Connor

Fewer students from Oswego County and Central New York are attending SUNY Oswego, while an increasing number of students from Long Island and New York City are attending the university.

 According to the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment of SUNY Oswego, attendance by students from Oswego County and the neighboring counties of Cayuga, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Oneida and Onondaga is at its lowest in four years, decreasing seven percent between the fall 2009 and fall 2013 semesters.

In 2009, this small group of counties were overcome by the 48 remaining upstate counties as the majority of where SUNY Oswego students call home. The number of students who live in Oswego County alone has decreased four percent since 2009.

I chose to not go to Oswego State because I wanted to experience something new and different,” Maggie Mooney, a 2012 graduate of Oswego City High School and SUNY Albany student, said. “There’s a world outside of Oswego and I would never experience that if I stayed in my hometown for college.

Photo provided by Daniel Griffin
Photo provided by Daniel Griffin

As of Fall 2013, students who live in the seven counties that make up New York City and Long Island account for 23.8 percent of the undergraduate student body. The students from New York City counties represent 8.9 percent of the school student population, which is up from 7.4 percent in 2011 and far from 5.2 percent in 2008, according to the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment. Bronx County has remained the most popular New York City county for Oswego-bound students, increasing more than one percent since 2009.

Likewise, residents of Long Island, who make up 13.9 percent of the student body currently, have seen a 3.3 percent increase since 2009 and a 1.2 percent increase just in the last year.

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Photo provided by Daniel Griffin
Photo provided by Daniel Griffin

“I didn’t want to go to New Paltz or a place that’s so close to home, like two or three hours away from home,” SUNY Oswego senior and Long Islander, Olga Reyes said. “I really just wanted to take the plunge and just go all the way out, the furthest that I could go from home and it’s Oswego.”

The substantial rise in students from the downstate area is no surprise, according to the director of admissions, Daniel Griffin.

“It’s all about a decline in population overall, and a decline specifically in the high school graduate population, upstate over the last decade versus downstate,” Griffin said. “Simply put, there are fewer students to be enrolled in Central New York versus more populated areas like New York City and Long Island.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 122,112 residents in Oswego County in 2010, compared to 121,700 in a 2012 estimate.

Griffin also said that the Office of Admissions has spent a lot of time promoting SUNY Oswego in the downstate and out-of-state area. Recently, the university has particularly reached out to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and the Washington D.C. area.

We don’t do much of what people consider typical ‘advertising,’ but we do put the Oswego name in front of our target audiences, high school students, their parents, and school counselors, in a number of ways,” Griffin said. “More than ever, in fact. So sometimes people will say to us, ‘Hey, I saw X college has a billboard up off X highway,’ or they’ll say ‘I saw Y college had an ad in the Y newspaper, why don’t we advertise?’ and simply put, we have found most recently our resources are much better spent on mailings directly to high school juniors and seniors, and school counselors.”

Photo provided by Daniel O'Connor
Photo provided by Daniel O’Connor

While the number of students coming from the Central New York region remains fairly high at 32.2 percent, it is down from 42.9 percent from five years ago. While some of the other upstate counties have individually seen very small drops since 2008, as a group they still increased more than two percent in that same time. The eastern and southeastern counties of Albany, Orange and Westchester in particular have seen dramatic increases.

According to the SUNY 2007-2019 Projection of High School Graduates in New York State, released by the Office of Higher Education Research and Information Systems, it was stated six years ago that student demographics would change dramatically beginning in 2011. The report also said that SUNY developed a downstate strategy that included use of direct mail, email, an enhanced online presence, alumni contact, faculty telephone calls and hired two regional admission representatives specifically to cover Nassau and Suffolk counties of Long Island and Westchester, Rockland and Dutchess counties of the Hudson Valley, to recruit more students from the area.

The efforts of Oswego State and the SUNY system have seen an enormous flux of downstate student numbers. From 2001 to 2010, the SUNY system saw a 95 percent increase in freshmen from Long Island; a 54 percent increase in freshmen from New York City; and a 121 percent increase in freshmen from the lower Hudson Valley.

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Students still generally agree that the extreme change in atmosphere is most appealing to them. Going away to school is not easy, but it’s a challenge many feel is necessary for personal growth.

 “The biggest challenge is being in this weather and at times you get homesick, you miss a good home-cooked meal or you know, just your bed,” senior human development major and Bronx County resident, Cassie Davis said. “So that becomes hard every now and then. But once you go about your everyday life or whatnot, your routine, it’s bearable.”