A decade worth of data from the Institutional Research department (IR) at SUNY New Paltz show that Long Island continues to be the second most popular place of origin for students.

While the enrollment data from the report indicate most students coming from the surrounding Hudson Valley, professors and students have also noticed a steady, yet large concentration of students from both Suffolk and Nassau counties.

“I have not collected any actual data but I do typically ask and I find that the majority of my students are from Long Island,” said Psychology Professor Kathleen Geher.

Last semester alone, the IR data showed that 19 percent of undergraduate students from Long Island attended this university. Much of that percentage is due to hearing about New Paltz through word-of-mouth, which is a large part of SUNY New Paltz’s visibility and marketing strategy, said Richard W. Bodenschatz, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Admission.

“I try to hit every single high school in Long Island,” added Lindsey Clark, Freshman Admission Advisor. As part of recruitment for next year, she aims to pay more attention to schools she “normally wouldn’t,” such as those further north within the town of Riverhead.

Moreover, many students from Long Island said that a few of their high school teachers as well as family members were actually undergraduates at SUNY New Paltz, and had shared their experiences with them. Other students knew of upperclassmen who were already enrolled, and were able to talk to them. A couple of students had no idea that New Paltz even existed.

“What the fuck is a New Paltz?” Andrea Paredes, 19, recalled asking herself after first hearing about this college from her guidance counselor at Bay Shore High School.

Students like Paredes, who were unfamiliar with SUNY Paltz, then dug a little deeper. They either checked out the main website, sifted through the brochure, took 1-3 tours, and attended Accepted Students Day, or a combination of all four. A few students even went the extra mile to sleepover at a friend’s dorm to get a better understanding of residence life at SUNY New Paltz.

This institution generally appeals to many students from Long Island because of the affordability. When compared to private universities such as Syracuse University, Vassar College or Ithaca College, they said SUNY New Paltz was an extremely affordable in-state public school. Several students even admitted that money aside, they would have chosen their top university choices. Other students said that since graduate school was part of their higher education plan, it made more sense to go to a SUNY.

While there are 64 SUNY institutions, many students from Long Island landed here. Apart from relatively low cost, distance from New Paltz to Long Island is a bonus. It is far away yet close enough —within a 2-3-hour radius from home —to visit family and friends.

“I’m a real family man,” Jason F. Vasquez, 20, said.

Another reason why students from Long Island chose to attend SUNY New Paltz is because they were interested in the academic programs offered. A few students specifically had an interest in music therapy, and SUNY New Paltz is one of very few institutions in the New York area that offers a specialized graduate program for it.

Several students were interested in communications, digital media and production, and English, among other programs. At the same time, since there are over 100 academic majors to choose from, students who were undeclared had the opportunity to take a variety of classes.

While half the students from Long Island said that SUNY New Paltz was not their first choice, they have chosen to stay at this school anyway. Though the cost of this school has allowed them to save money, it is not the only reason they have remained.

A couple of students said that first-year orientation solidified their love for the school because they created long-lasting friendships. Many of them also added that they have fostered positive relationships with faculty and staff, both inside and outside of the classroom. Some students also invested in extracurricular activities.

Saidul Alam, 21, became grounded in a club sport called rugby. Another student from Long Island, Autumn Wilson, 19, grew with a dance organization called Culture Shock. Many students became student leaders such as Resident Assistants, Orientation Leaders, Student Ambassadors (tour guides) and/or Welcome Center greeters, among other leadership roles.

“College is not just for education,” Shannon Butler, 20, said.

Sarah Moran from Northport, 21, could not agree more.

“I just got busy, and I love it,” Moran added.

Students from the Hudson Valley and the city have similar reasons for attending here, too. Sage Higgins, 21, of the Hudson Valley, said that her mother was an alumna from the 1980s. Higgins was also aware of the “artsy, friendly vibe.”

After having attended Accepted Students Day, she said, “Let’s just give it a whirl!”

“I could hop on the bus any weekend,” added Bronx native Simone Williams, 20.

There are other reasons why students from the surrounding area and New York City committed to SUNY New Paltz. Lucy Walker, Assistant Vice President of Institutional Research, said that the IR department responds to online guidebooks and questionnaires, which further assists with research and rankings.

“New Paltz had a blip of a high year,” Walker added, referring to 2008 when SUNY New Paltz was named the “Hottest Small State. School” in the nation by the 2008 Kaplan/Newsweek “How to Get into College” Guide. This publicity therefore enhanced SUNY New Paltz’s reputation.

John Oles, Social Media Manager, recognizes that too. His goal then is to “be everywhere when students are investigating us,” including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Niche, which is an extensive website of reviews.

Although some students from Long Island may not have loved the school at a first glance, others who did, still needed time to get accustomed. Either way, both types of students said that they could not have made a better choice.

“New Paltz, can lope you in, really,” Long Island native, Jordan Pappas, 21, said.

p.s. Here’s the enterprise story I’ve worked on for over a month. After interviewing about 20 different people, and emailing over 40 people, this is my end-of-the-year prized profession. Hope you enjoyed the read!

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