Middle States Report

Students, Student Life, & Student Support Services

Size & Quality of the Student Body

The University has the challenge of increasing the size of the student body while continuing to improve its quality. While the campus should benefit from increased funding as its enrollment increases, full funding of the SUNY budget guidelines is not guaranteed, but will depend on legislative action. Consequently, the institution will be able to support these enrollment increases only if resources are allocated by the Legislature. The team recommends that the campus continue to work with the System office in making final enrollment decisions that resect the availability of resources, if students are to be served well.

Further, to continue attracting the best students, the campus will need to expand its scholarship pool and effectively increase recruitment beyond the State of New York. Clearly, the quality of the student applicant pool is going up. The challenge will be to work with System in balancing the two goals of increased selectivity and increased enrollment.

Quality of Campus Life and Support Services

Recent advances in student services began in the 1990s with the former President and have continued with President Hitchcock. As a result, the leadership and staff in the student support areas are providing excellent services to students. Despite the fact that their resources are limited, staff have been creative and have shown initiative in the types of activities and services that they provide. The Team commends them for their dedication to the students and to the University.

In general, the University does an excellent job providing support services to ensure the safety and well-being of the campus community, with an emphasis on being responsive to students. The University Police are viewed as cooperative and supportive of students, using a prevention model which has been recognized both locally and nationally for its community policing practices. The Health and Counseling Centers offer a comprehensive array of services for the physical and mental health of students. Each is effectively preparing for specialized accreditation. The Health Center is to be commended for its use of technology, and the Counseling Center is understandably proud of such programs as its Middle Earth program in which student peers provide assistance through a campus hotline, workshops, and training. The Career Development Center contacts students early in their academic careers and may wish to participate in the orientation program of new students.

The Financial Aid Office provides timely and competent service to students in an efficient and friendly manner. It has received excellent ratings from students who take advantage of its services. Such satisfaction with a financial aid office is rare, and the office is to be commended. In recent years, the University has begun discounting tuition to selected students and providing more scholarships to students who have demonstrated academic excellence. The University may wish to consider organizational changes which would more closely link this office with that of Admissions and Enrollment Management.

The Office of Residential Life accommodates approximately 6,200 students, including 150 students in an off-campus housing arrangement. With plans for increasing enrollment, additional student housing is necessary, particularly given that the campus requires freshmen and sophomores to live on-campus. The Office also handles student orientation, the first-year experience, and several programs for parents. Renovation has begun on a number of the units and needs to continue at as fast a pace as possible. Improvements need to be made to the infrastructure of the facilities, including additional electrical wiring in the halls to accommodate computers, television, and other electronic equipment and appliances that students frequently bring to college. Students speak highly of the programming that occurs in the residence halls. Particular praise was given to the Presidential Scholars Program, honors housing, and the Renaissance Program. Participants in the Middle Earth program who assist students in dealing with a variety of issues gave high marks to that program. Cleanliness is a problem that has been recognized by the staff. To help to improve the cleanliness of the residence halls, the University might consider assigning adequate janitorial staff to Residential Life for their supervision. The Team encourages the University to continue its plans to build additional residence halls—halls that will meet the needs of today's students (e.g., single rooms, amenities, space to socialize).

The University provides a variety of recreational facilities, classes, and competitions. Intramural sports are very popular on campus. The University will need even more recreational facilities if the student population increases. The campus has recently decided to participate in Division-I athletics. The administration, faculty, staff, and students all feel that this decision will serve the University well. Students appear to have embraced the idea and have voted to increase their fees to support intercollegiate athletics. The Self-Study recognizes the University's need to support this effort through the enhancement of facilities and staff increases. The benefits of Division-I athletics should be continuously assessed against the direct and opportunity costs of maintaining a successful program.

The University provides services for over 400 self-identified students with handicaps, with the learning-disabilities population tripling in the past 10 years. With the growing number of students with learning disabilities, the University may wish eventually to consider adding a learning disabilities specialist.

The campus is successfully building campus life through the work of the Student Activities Office, which advises and facilitates programming for the 195 recognized student groups. Notwithstanding the substantial population of minorities (about 25%) on the campus, majority and minority students alike indicated that interaction among different racial and ethnic groups is minimal. The Team recommends that the university identify possible ways of encouraging more interaction among the rich variety of students on campus. The Team further suggests that the campus look at its current approach and organizational structure in this area in relation to its desired outcomes. In thinking about recruiting and retaining students, it is important to look at the availability of interesting and engaging social and recreational opportunities. Many colleges are redesigning, expanding, or building facilities to recruit and retain students. The Team observed no plan to increase or enhance substantially the social and recreational space for students. Students voiced concerns about the quality of life and expressed their need for more lounge space, meeting room, and non-athletic recreational opportunities. Though some efforts have been made to make the existing space more inviting, much more may need to be done to continue strengthening recruitment and retention efforts.

As mentioned earlier, the University is to be commended for launching a variety of exciting projects for groups of students such as Project Renaissance, the Presidential Scholars Program, and EOP.The challenge now is to build on the success of these initiatives in order to create among students in general a sense of community at a University-wide level.

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