OSWEGO — As the school year opens, SUNY Oswego is on track to enroll perhaps its largest, most diverse class ever of new first-year students.
About 1,500 freshmen — the Class of 2022 — enrolled at Oswego, with more than 96 percent living on campus for the fall semester.
More than 530 of these students self-identify from a historically underrepresented group, racially and culturally.
“We’re on pace for this to be the most diverse class of new students that we’ve enrolled; nearly 36 percent of the first-year class are from what we consider to be a diverse background,” said Daniel Griffin, director of admissions at SUNY Oswego. “That is partly an organic change given New York State’s rising residents, as well as an intentional effort on our part to attract more diverse, talented students to Oswego.”
In addition to a full-time recruiter in New York City, the college has added a full-timer on Long Island and has part-time recruiters in the Lower Hudson Valley and in New Jersey, Griffin said.
Students from outside the seven-county Central New York region outnumber those from the region about 4.5 to 1 among first-year students.
“This (record diversity) doesn’t happen on its own,” he said. “You have to be attractive to students of all backgrounds. I think Oswego has established itself as a very open and welcoming place, a place that values every student from every perspective, from every walk of life. It’s a very supportive place.”
The college prides itself as a campus that is constantly upgrading its physical plant, amenities and activities for student life, adding academic programs and more, he said.
“We are always moving forward here and never sitting back on our laurels and feeling like our work is done,” Griffin said. “I think that’s part of what’s kept us ahead of the pack a little bit.”
Miguel Cruz, a first-year student from Jamaica, Queens, said a relatively new program of Oswego’s drew him here.
He has loved computers since he was 6, and was on his high school robotics team for two years.
“I decided to go here because I like the electrical and computer engineering program,” Cruz said. “I’m going to really like it when it comes to putting together FPGAs (integrated circuits called field-programmable gate arrays).”
‘In a good place’
Muhammad Zohir Hidoyatov of Pakistan plans to study biology. “I want to be near the lakeside — fresh water — and improve my English and find new friends,” he said.
Other students cited Oswego’s scholarship programs and, generally, the value of SUNY schools. The college provides more than $7 million in merit-based scholarships and more than $80 million in need-based grants, loans, work-study and scholarship awards, said Mark Humbert, director of financial aid.
SUNY Oswego felt the statewide and national decline in community college enrollments, welcoming about 680 transfer students on opening day, compared with 750 a year ago.
In recent years, Griffin said, SUNY Oswego has sought, essentially, to “grow its own transfer students” by encouraging New York City-area students who have strong potential — but don’t currently meet Oswego’s requirements — to enroll at two of the college’s leading transfer institutions, Onondaga or Jefferson community colleges, in the Start Now Program.
After two years of individualized support and study, students who succeed are guaranteed their credits will transfer to SUNY Oswego, leaving them on track to earn both an associate’s and a bachelor’s degree.
“We have 15 transfers here that would not have been (without Start Now),” Griffin said. There are about 80 more students “in the pipeline” now in the program at OCC and JCC.
High school GPA and SAT/ACT scores for incoming students have stayed in the very selective category the college has maintained for some time, Griffin said.
Additionally, SUNY Oswego is making it more possible for talented students to enroll.
Oswego’s Admission Promise Program piloted this fall with a follow-up email to freshmen that had received denial letters; starting with the college’s early-action applicants in December, the college plans to fully implement the new program, he said.
Those not admitted directly as first-year students can apply to the Admission Promise Program and, if they successfully complete the equivalent of at least two semesters at one of the 30 SUNY community colleges, have a spot reserved for them at SUNY Oswego.