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DeFleur to University Council:

Binghamton must evolve, meet demands of changing demographics

The demographics of the working world and of higher education are changing dramatically. To remain competitive among its peers, Binghamton University must understand these changes and take account of the evolving role of higher education, President Lois B DeFleur told members of the University Council last week.

Across the nation, college and universities are facing high demand from increases in the number of high school students seeking higher education and of adult learners returning to enhance or change their careers. The challenge for the University is to continue to manage increased enrollment and its impact on campus life, and in particular, on the residential program.

In a review of the current enrollment figures, Provost Mary Ann Swain told members of the University Council that the number of undergraduates has grown by approximately 470 over last year’s numbers. On the graduate level, although the total number of students is down from last year, the University welcomed 55 more new graduate students to the campus this fall.

“We are particularly proud of the mix of our student body,” said Swain. “We have approximately 517 international and 840 out-of-state undergraduates in addition to those from across the state.

“The variety of perspectives that these students bring to our campus makes for a rich intellectual environment and provides all kinds of opportunities for the students to learn from each other.”

With an increase in enrollment comes the challenge of managing its impact on campus life, in particular, on housing. Today’s students have very different needs and expectations from those of previous generations, said Rodger Summers, vice president of student affairs.

“Many students have never had to share a bathroom or, in some cases, a bedroom with another person,” he said.

“The impact for residential life is that more adaptive skills are required. Our goal is to anticipate and adjust to these needs along the way.”

Summers introduced Terry Webb, director of residential life, who gave an in-depth review of the trends and issues facing residential life at Binghamton University.

According to Webb, the fast-changing world of technology has presented new opportunities and challenges.

“(At one time), the hottest appliance was a transistor radio,” he said. “Nowadays, on average, students plug in between 12 to 14 electronic devices, including computers, sound-systems and micro-waves.”

One of the things that makes the University unique is the way students are connected to the residential communities.

“It started with Dickinson and a design that suggests a neighborhood,” said Webb. “That sense of community has been incorporated into every residential center since then, including Mountainview. Students are connected to their community, and through the collegiate centers are connected to academics. In my experience, no one does this as well as Binghamton.”

The challenge now facing the University, when looking at future housing styles and renovation opportunities, is to be able to meet the needs of current students while anticipating those of the future.

“Our goal is to take housing resources and apply it to our academic mission,” said Webb.

“It’s an exciting opportunity that will allow us to learn from past successes and continue to connect our students to the University - something we already do well.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08