Becki Vivacqua knew exactly where she wanted to go to school: Utica College.
The school was close to home, gave her a good financial aid package, had field hockey, an accounting undergraduate and master’s programs.
Now a junior, Vivacqua knows she made the right decision.
“It’s been my top choice since forever,” said the 20-year-old from Yorkville.
Over the past decade, Utica College has increased program offerings and recruitment strategies in an effort to boost enrollment.
And it’s working. The college’s enrollment was up 63 percent from 2,465 in 2003 to 4,022 this year.
The college is one of four area colleges that showed an increase in enrollment over the past decade, with Colgate University up 3.2 percent, Hamilton College nearly 5 percent and Mohawk Valley Community College up more than 26 percent.
Though college enrollments are declining nationwide, enrollment at private colleges and universities in New York increased 11 percent from fall 2003 to fall 2013, according to data compiled by the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities.
“The long-term enrollment trends point to the value of higher education, both in terms of better employment opportunities and a well-rounded life,” said commission President Laura Anglin.
State University of New York schools also have shown an 8.5 percent increase from 2007 - 2008 to 2012 - 2013, according to its website.
Between the economy and the number of high school students graduating, colleges have become increasingly competitive.
For example, Herkimer County Community College had an all-time high enrollment of 3,786 in 2009 during the peak of the economic downturn.
Now, it’s at 3,221 due to the number of high school graduates declining and more stringent academic and admissions policies, said college Director of Public Relations, Rebecca Ruffing.
Starting in 2010, students who are not making academic progress have been dismissed more readily and students from out of the county must have a high school average of 68 or higher to be accepted, she said.
“The benefits of improved retention and higher transfer and graduation rates benefit the students and the college,” Ruffing said.
Meanwhile, colleges are working to increase their enrollment.
Utica College has boosted online and graduate offerings, expanded international recruitment and continues to offer the majority of its students, 96 percent, financial aid, said Donna Shaffner, assistant vice president of Undergraduate Admissions.
To accommodate the growth, the college has added residence halls and classroom space over the years, she said.
Other colleges, such as Hamilton, have continued to increase enrollment but have been mindful of campus space and professor-to-student ratios.
Enrollment at Hamilton College grew from 1,797 in 2003 to 1,884 this fall, but has fluctuated over the years.
“Because it’s a residential college, we don’t have a lot of room for growth,” said Monica Inzer, dean of admissions and financial aid.
Page 2 of 2 - So, if the college admits a large freshman class one year, it must account for that large group of students when admitting students the following year, or admit fewer transfers.
“We always want to protect the experience and the 9-to-1 student-faculty ratio,’ Inzer said. “Our first priority is to serve the students.”
Just because other colleges don’t show an increase when comparing 2003 - 2004 to 2013 - 2014, doesn’t mean they haven’t grown.
Though SUNYIT has seen a steady increase in the number of incoming freshmen, it’s enrollment from 2003 to 2013 shows a 7.5 percent decrease due mainly to the transition from an all-transfer and graduate institution to a college with four-year undergraduates, said John Swann, the college’s associated vice president and chief of staff.
Numbers are expected to rise, especially with increased job opportunities and programs such as nanotechnology.
“We are on a course for significant and continued enrollment growth,” Swann said.