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SUNY Canton receives a record number of applicants

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CANTON — More applicants means better classes for SUNY Canton.

The college has swelled from a small two-year technical school to a large four-year university, and that change has attracted the interest of a record number of students.

The university has received more than 6,300 applicants for the 2012-13 school year, surpassing 6,000 for the first time. That is up 20 percent from the same time last year, continuing an upward trend, said David Gerlach, vice president for advancement.

“It has been a 10-year trend, but it has been very dramatic for the last four or five years,” he said. “I think it is from a multitude of reasons.”

Mr. Gerlach said the expansion of four-year programs and the opportunity to earn degrees in popular fields like health care, criminal justice and civil engineering are attracting students.

“With our economy, it is a great time to have marketable skills in fields that are in demand right now,” he said.

SUNY Canton recently added six new bachelor’s degree programs, including offerings in veterinary technology and sports management. The school continues to see demand for its nursing and criminal investigation programs, said Mr. Gerlach.

New degree programs are only part of the college’s improved draw, said Admissions Director Nicole Campbell. The university tailors campus visits to appeal to the individual interests and concerns of prospective students.

“I think one of the other things we have been working really hard at is improving our experience for students when they visit the campus,” she said. “By working to personalize each student’s visit, that is helping give a better sense of what our school’s about.”

Mr. Gerlach said the new buildings on campus, including the Grasse River Suites, a modern 305-bed residence hall completed last year, also entice applicants.

“We’ve had some wonderful improvements on campus,” he said. “The brand new residence halls, the new athletic center, we have expanded our athletics by four sports and we’re hoping to be accepted into the NCAA. On top of that, our marketing has been outstanding”

Though SUNY Canton’s enrollment continues to grow, the increase in applicants outpaces that, said Mr. Gerlach, leading admissions officers to be more selective and producing a student body that is better prepared for the university environment.

“We’ve also increased the academic quality of our incoming class, increased high school GPA of our incoming classes,” he said. “We’re able to be more selective while we are growing the applications.”

The university’s enrollment could break the 4,000 student mark for the first time, said Ms. Campbell. In 2011, the school welcomed 1,000 freshman and 300 transfers, but both numbers could increase this year.

SUNY Canton will continue to accept as many students as it can, but it will accept a smaller percentage of applicants due to capacity constraints.

Mr. Gerlach said some of the increased interest in SUNY Canton could be due to the economic downturn and fear of burdensome student loan debt. However, the application growth outpaces other SUNY campuses with similar college costs.

“Certainly, I think the private versus public cost differential has turned some individuals to look for public education, but our growth is well-beyond that,” he said. “Our growth is just head and shoulders above the average growth across SUNY. We believe we are the fastest growing college in New York state. Our growth is even stronger compared to other public schools.”

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