CANTON After several years of rising applications and enrollment, SUNY Cantons rapid growth appears to be cooling off.
In an email circulated on campus earlier this week, school administrators said they had received 4,276 applications for the fall semester as of March 20, down from 5,318 in the same period in 2012 a decrease of 1,042, or nearly 20 percent.
Michael J. Perry, director of admissions, said SUNY Canton was casting a narrower net when recruiting students, attempting to improve its academic standards.
In line with the colleges mission and goals, we have become a more selective college, he said. Academic preparedness increasingly dictates who we recruit.
The school is accepting fewer applicants, as well. As of March 20, the school had accepted 2,390 applicants for the fall semester, down from 3,169 in the same period last year. The percentage of accepted applicants in the period has dropped from 59.5 percent last year to 55.8 percent this year.
The decline could mark the end of five straight years of record enrollment and increasing applications. In 2012, the college received more than 6,300 applicants for the 2012-13 school year, surpassing 6,000 for the first time. That was up 20 percent from the same time in 2011.
Canton Town Supervisor David T. Button expressed concern that any decline in enrollment could negatively affect economic development in the north country.
It is not good for Canton. When a community bases its economy on a strong growing college and the numbers start to go in the other direction, it can send a shudder through the community, he said. I hope the numbers are just preliminary and well see them increase as time goes on.
Mr. Perry said SUNY Canton was targeting stronger students, but enrollment at the school would not suffer.
Weve been targeting applicants with higher GPAs to focus our efforts on more academically prepared students by design, he said. We are on target to make our goal of 950 to 1,000 first-time, full-time students.
The schools improving retention rate also will help stabilize enrollment, Mr. Perry said.
Weve also seen further growth in our population of returning students, he said. SUNY Canton has become an increasingly popular choice for students over the past five years, so our applicants are competing for fewer spots.
Since 2011, the school has increased its retention rate from 53 percent to 62 percent for all students.
Another factor affecting the growth in applicants is the addition of new programs and degrees; in recent years, the school added six new bachelors degree programs, including offerings in veterinary technology and sports management. This year, SUNY Canton has not announced the introduction of new programs.