NORWICH – Enrollment is down by 100 students at Morrisville State College in Norwich, and a flurry of meetings involving business executives, Norwich High School and the county have ensued over the past several days to meet a directive from the State University of New York to reverse the situation.
There were just 360 students on the attendance roster this semester, compared to 460 last year. The number is a far cry from reaching a goal of 600-plus set when SUNY Morrisville’s new campus opened at The Eaton Center site on Conkey Avenue in 2006. The college began an extension in Norwich back in 1970.
The economic downturn, rising cost of tuition and fewer students going to college has had an impact on enrollment statewide. Though it varies by campus, New York State universities have lost approximately 30 to 35 percent of their annual operating budgets over the past few years.
Another concern is that more Chenango County students are choosing to attend two-year community colleges over SUNY Morrisville because courses are less expensive. Base tuition at Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3) is about $4,921 per year for example, compared to SUNY’s at $5,300. SUNY schools charge more because they offer courses that are applicable to a four-year, bachelor’s degree, should students decide to continue their education. SUNY Morrisville in Norwich offers not only associate degree programs in select career and technical areas, but also liberal arts transfer programs.
Community colleges can offer courses at a lower rate than state colleges because they are also receiving state-mandated chargebacks from counties. Chenango County taxpayers paid $950,000 last year for its students to attend them, wherever they are in the state, from Broome Community College in Chenango Bridge to the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan. In fact, county taxpayers are currently picking up the tab for students who are taking college credit courses offered by TC3 in Norwich High School classrooms.
Whether the SUNY system will fund any new academic programs or other student draws is uncertain. Morrisville’s Officer in Charge, Dr. B. Wolfe Yeigh, apparently told a group of business and political leaders on Feb. 28 that no financial support would be available. Commerce Chenango President Steve Craig, who attended the meeting in Roger W. Follett Hall on the Norwich campus, told the Chenango County Board of Supervisors last week that it would be up to Chenango County to drive enrollment.