In 1920, The College of Saint Rose was started in a single building in Albany that still stands today.
Almost 100 years later, the College’s footprint is much bigger, but not just in the size of its picturesque urban campus. An ever-growing number of students come to Saint Rose from throughout the United States and around the globe. They are drawn to the life-changing education and seek to transform the lives of those around them through what they learn.
When Jazmin Velazquez ‘19 arrived at The College of Saint Rose, she was starting her college experience roughly 3,000 miles away from her friends and family in Northern California. Her first two semesters were spent traveling from the Capital Region to the sunny San Francisco Bay, flying home for every break she could.
But those trips were less frequent as Velazquez became more independent, finding her passion and people at Saint Rose. Over the past four years, she has joined the women’s track and field team, topped the Northeast-10 Athletic Conference Academic Honor Roll, found the right major (psychology with a minor in Spanish), worked as an undergraduate admissions tour guide, and studied abroad in Barcelona.
“There are definitely things that I didn’t think I would ever do,” she said.
Velazquez’s journey from vulnerable transplant to self-sufficient adult is not uncommon. Saint Rose expanded its national recruitment initiative in 2016, further introducing Saint Rose to more high school students across the United States who might not have learned about the College otherwise.
Mary Grondahl, vice president for enrollment management and marketing, said in addition to longstanding recruitment in New York State and New England, her team focuses efforts on expanded regions of the country that are “bubbling up” with increased applicant interest, including but not limited to the Middle Atlantic States (D.C., Maryland, Ohio, Virginia), South and Southwest (Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Texas), and Western states with a focus on California. Students from these states play a significant role in the College’s applicant pool today.
“We are at the highest level of out-of-state applications received to date,” Grondahl said, adding that the number of out-of-state applications for Fall 2019 is up 68 percent since 2015.
Grondahl said President Carolyn J. Stefanco recognized the College had potential to expand its national and global profile early in her leadership. Stefanco’s vision for Saint Rose is woven into the institution’s strategic goals, which aim to further diversify the College’s enrollment.
“We are fortunate to have a leader who understands national diversity is important for the long-term health of the institution, but it is also great for students,” Grondahl said. “Students come to colleges and universities to consider different perspectives and meet people who aren’t just from their own high schools or community colleges. So, it behooves us … to ensure they have that experience, and they live it out while they are here.”
The College’s national expansion goals were informed by a demographic change in the number of high school graduates in and around the Northeast. According to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), the Northeast is declining in high school graduates largely due to significant drops in birthrates years ago.
“The two areas of the country that are suffering major declines in high school graduates are the Northeast and Midwest,” Grondahl said. “So with a declining traditional college-going population and competition increasing, it makes the effort to build enrollment a very complex endeavor. At the same time, shaping enrollment is an exciting undertaking.”
The New York State Excelsior Scholarship, which launched officially in Spring 2017, makes SUNY and CUNY tuition-free for eligible students whose families’ adjusted gross income equals $125,000 or less.
Grondahl said the Excelsior Scholarship announcement strengthened the College’s earlier decision to invest more in national expansion. The Saint Rose admissions teams were already deep into national recruitment activities when the policy was finalized.
Still, that doesn’t mean efforts to recruit in-state students have stopped. High school graduates might be waning in the Northeast, but New York is still the largest producer of high school graduates in this region.
That is important because national admissions data shows students are more likely to attend institutions that are no more than 100 to 300 miles from their home, Grondahl said.
“The College of Saint Rose deserves its rightful place in the competitive market,” she said. “Realizing that place takes leadership, vision, and investment to make it happen. We have all three of those.”