According to Suffolk County Community College’s fall semester 10-year enrollment report, since 2016, enrollment at the college has dropped by 4.3 percent to about 26,000.
And it does’t look like the trend is going to change any time soon.
Katherine Aguirre, Suffolk’s director of admissions, pointed to a decline in birthrates as “the greatest impact in enrollment.”
“Families with fewer children that filter into the K-12 system will cause a decrease in graduating class sizes,” she said.
As an example, she offered the senior class at Bayport-Blue Point School District, which expects to graduate 181 students in June. The district’s kindergarten class has 143 students. Assuming that no children leave the district 12 years from now, there will be 38 fewer graduates, about a 20 percent decrease.
“This is a national trend,” Aguirre said.
During a meeting with faculty and students at the Ammerman campus in February, SUNY Provost Tod Laursen noted that “community colleges are susceptible to a decline in enrollment,” and that the system is looking for ways to stem the problem.
The 10-year enrollment report includes the number of students enrolled in the college every fall semester starting from 2009-2018.
From fall 2009 to fall 2010, there was a increase of 1,925 students, which equated to the largest increase in the 10 years surveyed. This was followed by an increase of 2,151 students between fall 2009 through fall 2011.
Suffolk reached its highest number of students enrolled in fall 2016 with a total of 27,244.
Going forward, Aguirre said the college anticipates an enrollment decrease of about 2 percent in the next year. She said this is part due to a solid stock market and the steady economy.
The college continues to address this trend with numerous recruitment and retention initiatives. That includes leveraging technology, such as online classes, to enhance the student experience and help retain current students.
“Lastly, we will look at the on-boarding process to help students determine career pathways early on in their academic journey,” Aguirre said.
“When the economy is stable and doing well, people do not typically pursue career changes or additional educational opportunities.”