As the fall semester draws  closer, Stony Brook faculty will begin to prepare themselves for the rush of new students expected to enter in August. But this year, unlike in past years, there will not be an increase in incoming freshmen. Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley, Jr. announced last September that the number of students admitted would not exceed 2,700 in the Fall of 2011, a consequence of steep budget cuts and crowded classrooms.

“With the budget cuts that we have taken mounting to an excess of $60 million over the last two years, we just do not have the funds to bring more students to the table,” said Matthew Whelan, the assistant provost for Admissions and Financial Aid. “We want to take care of the students we have now.”

According to Stanley, the cap was also put in place to improve faculty-student ratios, as well as to make sure enough classes remain available for undergraduates. He said a plan that would allow SUNY campuses to set their own tuition, which stalled in the state legislature last year, would have helped prevent the cap.

Shawn Hyms, a sophomore, said that he had mixed feelings about the cap. He said he does not want to see more potential students get rejected but realizes that less money calls for strict solutions.

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“We are in tough times and there are limits toward the university,” Hyms said. “So inside, I’m conflicted myself.”

Hyms is a member of several campus organizations, including Hillel and the Commuter Student Association. When asked whether he thought an enrollment cap would affect the amount of people attracted to clubs, he seemed unsure.

“It’s hard to say because the Commuter Student Association, that’s always going to be a big group,” Hyms said. “I wouldn’t know about Hillel. I’m not sure how many Jewish kids would be blocked out.”

Manuel London, the dean of the college of business, said he understands the need for an enrollment cap. While he asserted that the Business department does not experience the problem of overcrowding now, he said it was an issue at one time.

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“We had that problem with our minor when we didn’t have a GPA requirement for them,” London said. Now, “students have to have a 3.1 GPA.”

London did not seem concerned about the possibility of less students being admitted to his department because of the cap. He said that they try not to overload their classes anyway. “We keep our classes in business relatively small, even though we are the third largest major on campus.”

Despite the fact that Stony Brook has declared a limit on freshman enrollment, Whelan took pains to avoid calling the limit a “cap” and said that it will have very little effect on the student population.

“Over the last three or four years, we’ve been accepting on average 2,700 freshmen,” Whelan said. “So the cap is merely a component of what has been happening.”

Whether it is to be considered a cap or not, the act of adopting a maximum number for student enrollment is an acknowledgment of the poor state of the school’s budget. Whelan and the administration said they are hoping that they will be able to set their own tuition within the next few years and begin to expand again. But for the foreseeable future, it appears that yearly freshman enrollment will remain stalled at its current capacity.

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As a student, Hyms said that avoiding a cap would have ramifications on all Stony Brook faculty and staff.

“If an enrollment cap would stop layoffs or pay cuts or pay freezes then it’s the lesser of two evils,” Hyms said.

 

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