Some colleges and universities in WNY struggle to attract more students, keep enrollment numbers up

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Colleges and Universities in Western New York face the same challenges that many other schools do across the country. It’s tough to attract more students and keep enrollment numbers up. An economic expert says a number of factors come into play.

“Everyone’s essentially having a harder time getting students. If you’re at the top, if you’re at the University at Buffalo you can make your student enrollments by just lowering you GPA a little bit but if you’re at a Medaille or a Trocaire or a Hilbert where you’re already letting in everybody pretty much it’s going to be much harder for you to find students,” said Fred Floss, Buffalo State Department of Economics Chair.

Floss says part of it has to do with a declining population of 18 to 25-year-olds. He says another factor is the cost. It’s more expensive for kids to get a higher education here, and that has an impact on who can come and who can stay.

“State support for both public and private higher education hasn’t kept up with inflation so that means tuitions have had to go up more than they should’ve,” said Floss.

Floss says enrollment struggles hit smaller private institutions the hardest and he says it has a ripple effect on the region’s economy.

“Buffalo in fact depends critically on higher education we’re probably as a percentage of the economy probably about 7 to 8 percent of the local economy,” said Floss.

Medaille College says back in 2011 there were 363 enrolled freshman. So far in 2016, that number is down to 321.

“Traditionally by the first week in August we would know how many students we had. But if you’re down students you’re really working hard to try and pick up the extra numbers so nobody wants to give out numbers while they’re still trying to enroll students. But I don’t know that’s a good sign for Western New York that we haven’t met our targets already,” said Floss.

However, UB is experiencing a growth in enrollment. “Applications to UB have increased 10 percent from last year, and we are on target to meet our enrollment goals for first-year students. We are anticipating total student enrollment of approximately 30,000 this academic year,”  a spokesperson for the office of admissions said.

Floss says that some schools accept more applicants to reach their targets, but he said that leads to problems with retention and graduation rates down the line.

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