Upstate News

October 14, 2008
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

SUNY Upstate records greatest enrollment increase in more than a decade

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Reflecting an initiative to strengthen New York’s response to the ongoing shortage of healthcare professionals, SUNY Upstate Medical University has recorded its largest enrollment increase in more than a decade. For the 2008 academic year, 1,377 students are enrolled at the academic medical center, up nearly 10 percent (9. 4 percent) from 2007.

“We need to be part of the solution to the nationwide shortage of healthcare professionals, and increasing our enrollment is one of the ways we can make good on our promise and embrace our mission of helping to meet the area’s healthcare needs,” said David R. Smith, M.D., president of SUNY Upstate Medical University.

The increased enrollment stems from the Fall 2008 incoming class that is 26 percent larger than it was in 2007. Much of that growth came in the College of Nursing. This year the college accepted 152 students into its bachelor’s, master’s and certificate degree programs. That’s a 76 percent increase over 2007 enrollment figures of 86 students. The number of males in the incoming class nearly doubled in the last five years, from 7 in 2004 to 13 in 2008.

“We have accepted the challenge to double our efforts in strengthening and increasing the ranks of nursing,” said Elvira Szigeti, R.N. Ph.D., dean of the College of Nursing.

Szigeti said the increase is due in part to the faltering economy. “Nursing has always been a career that has been immune to economic cycles: Nurses are needed 24 hours a day in every corner of the state,” she said.

Another reason for the class size increase is the growing necessity of having advanced education in nursing, Szigeti noted. “Advanced degrees in nursing are becoming more important as nurses take on more responsibilities at the bedside, in research laboratories and in hospital leadership,” she said.

While the College of Medicine incoming class remains the same as Fall 2007—160 students—it has a decidedly Empire State feel to it this year. Eighty-one percent (130 students) of the incoming class is from New York. This compares to 2007, when 49 percent (78 students) of the incoming class were from New York. This year marks the largest number of New York state residents in the incoming College Medicine class since 2003.

“Our enrollment increase, especially among state residents, exemplifies the College of Medicine’s commitment to educate and train a strong cadre of medical professionals who have roots in New York and may seek opportunities to care for patients here,” said Steven J. Scheinman, M.D., SUNY Upstate senior vice president and dean of the College of Medicine. “I believe that our admissions process has struck a good balance between accepting the best students regardless of state of origin and our obligation to the people of New York to educate physicians who are more likely to remain in the state.”

New York state earlier this year announced the Doctors Across New York program that would provide medical students trained in New York with incentives, such as loan repayment programs, to agree to practice in underserved areas of the state.

SUNY Upstate offers a Rural Medical Education Program, known as RMED, which provides third-year medical students with an opportunity live in rural communities across the state and work and learn under the supervision of board-certified family physicians.

Also enjoying an enrollment surge is the College of Health Professions, which enrolled its largest class in the last five years. The number of students in the 2008 class is 146, up from 131 students last year and 119 in 2004. The college prepares students for a variety of health professions, including cardiovascular perfusion, radiation and physical therapy, many of which are also faces shortages across the state.

“What we are seeing is a realization that healthcare can provide steady, good paying jobs with a beneficent mission of providing comfort and care,” said Hugh Bonner, Ph.D., dean of the College of Health Professions. “We’re also seeing an increased interest and understanding in the high schools that the healthcare jobs are not solely physicians and nurses.”

Enrollment in the College of Graduate Studies remains steady with 24 students, including 21 doctoral students, for Fall 2008.

Currently, there are 478 medical residents at SUNY Upstate.

Last fall, SUNY Upstate Medical University unveiled the SUNY Upstate Initiative, a comprehensive facilities blueprint that includes plans for new classroom and teaching space as a way to accommodate a 30 percent growth in enrollment expected over the near future.

Smith noted that recent significant budget cuts in state support for SUNY schools may slow enrollment growth.

Other key facts:

Average age of incoming student:
? Medicine, 23.3 (2008), 22.9 (2004)
? Nursing, 36.9 (2008), 34.2 (2004)
? Health Professions, 25.7 (2008), 31 (2004)

Applications at the College of Medicine have risen steadily in the last five years:
? 2008—5321, up 15 percent from 2007 and up 83 percent from 2004
? 2007—4611
? 2006—3764
? 2005—3145
? 2004—2896

Incoming medical class has more men than women:
? More men (83) than women (77) are members of the incoming medical class. It’s the first time men outrank women in the incoming class since 2005.

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