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Applications break record

By : Rachel Coker

Janice McDonald, assistant dean of Harpur College, helps Shannon Leung of Long Island during the July 14 faculty fair at Mountainview Dining Hall designed to assist incoming freshmen register for the fall semester.
The University received a record-high 26,000 applications from students who hoped to enroll this fall.

That includes 22,700 freshman applications, a 6 percent increase from the previous year, and 3,300 transfer applications, up 3 percent from a year ago. About 42 percent were accepted.

“That puts us in the very top echelon of universities, both public and private,” said Cheryl Brown, director of undergraduate admissions. “The University is maturing. Its reputation is spreading.”

Beyond reputation, a variety of factors — such as campus visits, successful alumni, more targeted recruiting and the University’s academic and social atmosphere — influence students’ decisions to apply, she added.

Vikki LaStella, 17, of Deer Park on Long Island, said Binghamton was her first choice. She fell in love with the University when her older brother was a student here.

“It seemed like a perfect fit,” LaStella said. “The area’s gorgeous and I love the snow.”

LaStella, who had a 93 percent average in high school and was active with the softball team and student council, plans to major in psychology. She said a combination of factors, including people she met on campus, convinced her Binghamton was the right school.

Overall value is another important factor for many applicants, Brown noted. Tuition for in-state students will be $4,350 this year. With room, board, books and other fees, it will cost New York residents an average of $16,460 to attend Binghamton. At Cornell University, for example, that bill is $45,877 this year.

“As a society, we may be at a tipping point with the cost of private colleges,” Brown said. “Our students could go elsewhere, but their families know they can get quality here. That’s increasingly true even for higher-income families.”

The exact composition of the Class of 2010 isn’t clear yet, though Brown reports that applications from out-of-state students rose by 15 percent and international applications were up 7 percent.

“In general, they’re very strong students,” Brown said. “There’s a very strong interest in nursing and engineering.” She noted that computer science, which has been hurt by the dot. com bust, saw an increase in applicants for this fall.

Brown said her office takes on three full-time temporary workers and several students for about eight weeks to handle the credentials crunch that goes with the applications.

“It’s a luxury and a curse,” she said. “The luxury is we get to pick the best of the best. The curse is the volume.”

Admissions is exploring scanning technology that could reduce the paper handling required in time for the 2008 processing year. Other new technology has already allowed the office to do much more personalized recruiting, particularly with targeted e-mails.

Brian Hazlett, senior associate director of undergraduate admissions, said the office has also been reorganized a bit. The seasoned group of counselors works to ensure that recruiting efforts are more strategic. Counselors take advantage not only of e-mail but also instant messenger to respond to applicants.

Hazlett also noted that those targeted communications go beyond the student. Parents of admitted students also received phone calls, he said.

“You have to recruit the parent as much as you recruit the student,” he said. “They’re very much a part of this process.”

Brown noted that Binghamton does still face challenges in its recruiting efforts. In some parts of the country, people aren’t familiar with Binghamton, or even with the State University of New York system as a whole.

“Relationships matter,” she said. “Getting out, meeting guidance counselors and giving them information about the University takes time. Out of state, we recruit one family at a time.”

In the next year, Binghamton recruiters will go to national college fairs as far away as California, Arizona and Chicago. SUNY plans to hire four to six recruiters for the system around the country, which should also help, Brown said.

She feels it’s inevitable that Binghamton’s profile will continue to rise.

“We are too strong,” she said, “to be a regional institution.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08