Tuition increases threatening undergraduate enrollment

OSWEGO, NY– It has become increasingly common for many high school graduates to enroll in college whether that be a local community college or a four-year university. With this increased demand, colleges have become increasingly expensive and unaffordable for most, forcing student loans and student debt to be a nationwide issue. Due to this, the emphasis on getting kids to go to college is beginning to change. 

SUNY Oswego’s total cost for tuition as of 2022 without fees, books, room, and board is $8,769 per year whereas compared to 2017 the cost of tuition alone was $6,470, which is nearly a $3,000 increase. 

“Enrollment is down over the last several years overall, even from 5-6 years ago,” said Lindsay McCluskey, advisor.

In the fall of 2015 total student population was 7,937 with a 1,802 decrease by 2021 bringing it down to 6,135 students overall. Nationally, undergraduate college enrollment has dropped 8% from 2019 to 2022.

Parents, educators, and society as a whole pushing children to believe that college is necessary and expected has resulted in a lack of young people going into trades. 

“Part of what pressures students to continue on with college is parents telling their kids they had to return,” said Andrew Buchmann, first-year student advisor.

“I never felt pressured to come to college but I knew I would disappoint my parents by not going,” said Jessica Silver, SUNY Oswego senior.

There is a stigma many people believe that getting a good job, maintaining stability, and a happy life are things only achievable through college. But with the rising costs of college, many prospective students are choosing to opt out of the college route and instead focus on jobs in the trades such as welders, mechanics, carpenters, electricians, apprenticeships, military services, entrepreneurship, and more. 

Pushing kids to attend college who are not invested in furthering their education will hurt them. School is not everyone’s strong suit and pressuring your child to attend when they truly are not passionate about may not benefit them but instead, may potentially harm them. 

“During the period of midterms, I have about at least one appointment a day where I am discussing withdrawing with a student,” said Buchmann.

Oftentimes after feeling pressured to attend, many students turn to withdrawing. Dropping out means the student will have to pay back any loans or debt without having earned the salary they would have for their concentration had they continued.

“When addressing, it is best to know what drives them and express what resources are available to help. If they want to withdraw, we are there to support their choice with all the information can provide to allow them to determine what is best for them,” said McCluskey.

Setting a standard for high school students that college is the expected path after graduation can possibly be harmful to society. By demonstrating to youth that there are numerous different options for themselves, there could be a greater variety of skills and satisfaction within our communities. 

Traditional learning may not be for everyone, but SUNY Oswego offers a variety of courses online including six different bachelor’s programs and seven master’s programs along with study abroad and online learning. These programs may be appealing to those who do not particularly like traditional learning, which is why it is important that students are aware of their options.

“When students feel as if they have a connection to faculty, to someone who will help them, they are more likely to stay,” said McCluskey.

Advisers being easily accessible and prepared to help students is a big factor in keeping students enrolled. Students feeling helpless and lost may feel as if they do not have any other options than to withdraw. At SUNY Oswego, there is a retention rate of 76%, which is above the national average by 7%.

 ”I actually had to get my adviser changed and my new adviser still isn’t very helpful which is frustrating because I feel like I have to figure out things on my own,” said Silver.

Overall, advisors say that making students feel comfortable to ask for help is vital to the development of their education. Students feeling it is worth it to continue their education is key to increasing enrollment.