In Brief – Though SUNY New Paltz President Donald Christian said he hoped to have in-person courses resume in the fall semester, the university is also preparing for the worst.
Christian laid out what SUNY New Paltz might expect in the coming year in the realm of enrollment, the budget, falling state aid and remote classes during a virtual meeting of the university’s college council Wednesday.
Reopening the university would be based on recommendations made outside of the university, Christian said.
“We’re also very clear that any decision that we make as an individual campus will follow directly through the guidance of the Governor, New York State, and county health authorities, and will almost certainly be coordinated through SUNY,” he said.
The university has laid out three basic scenarios for the fall semester: a complete return to in-person classes, a continuation of this semester’s remote leaning, or a hybrid of the two.
The university was working under “tremendous uncertainty” and would not have a clearer picture of what path would be followed for at least another month, or perhaps not until mid-summer, Christian said.
Responding to a question about maintaining social distancing on campus, Christian said there were 392 dorm rooms with their own bathrooms that could still be filled if social distancing did not allow for multiple students in a single room, though he called this an “extreme case.”
It is also unknown how much money the campus will be working with next academic year. Gov. Cuomo has said SUNY schools might have their state aid cut by as much as 20 percent if the federal government does not provide significant assistance to states in the forthcoming stimulus.
State aid has not been reduced in the budget passed earlier this month. However, New York State Budget Director Robert Mujica has the power to reduce aid if the state does not reach its revenue target, which – even with some federal assistance – it will almost certainly not.
The state is facing revenue shortfalls from plunging sales tax receipts, as well as expected drops in income tax proceeds and other revenue streams.
“We’re in a period of very tight control and limits on spending and expectations to curtail hiring for all but just a few special category positions,” Christian said.
All SUNY schools had provided SUNY central administration with analyses of what they would do under various hypothetical funding predictions, Christian said, and SUNY administration was synthesizing the reports to get a picture of what the overall SUNY budget might be.
The majority of SUNY New Paltz’s budget is dependent on enrollment, coming from tuition and student fees, and there were encouraging signs the school would have solid enrollment in the Fall.
Enrollment in summer classes is similar to last year, Christian said.
However, all summer classes are online, and therefore enrollment might not reflect fears of coming to campus in the Fall.
Graduate enrollment is actually higher than last year, Christian said, but the biggest slice of information – the number of returning and new undergraduates – is not yet known.
Fall registration for returning undergraduates has been pushed back by two weeks, and the college could not yet get a read on how many new undergraduates would enroll, since the due date for deposits was pushed from May 1 to July 1.
The college was forced to cancel campus tours with the college shutdowns, Christian added, which usually served as a significant recruiting tool.
More will be known about how much state aid SUNY will receive when Congress passes the next stimulus bill, which is expected to include more funding for state and local governments.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the SUNY New Paltz president’s name. It is Donald Christian, not Donald Christensen.