New Paltz has experienced an ongoing upward trajectory as it strengthens its academic profile, gains greater recognition, and continues to build its national reputation for high-quality, intellectually engaging undergraduate education in a personalized and student-centered environment. The College competes successfully for strong students with excellent public and private colleges and universities across the Northeast. Founded in 1828, New Paltz (www.newpaltz. edu) was created as a school to teach the classics, then became a state normal school in 1885 – offering courses to prepare graduates to teach in the New York public school system – and was incorporated into the State University of New York (SUNY) in 1948. It is one of 64 academic institutions in the SUNY system (www.suny.edu).
New Paltz’s rising reputation has been acknowledged in college rankings publications. US News and World Report ranked New Paltz 4th among the best public regional masters universities in the Northeast, up from 7th in 2010. New Paltz also ranked 24th among public and private regional masters universities in the Northeast. Kiplinger and The Princeton Review have named New Paltz a “best value” in higher education. The College has also been ranked No. 2 in the Affordable Colleges Online list of “Top 50 Affordable Colleges with a High ROI,” a list of the nation’s most affordable colleges with the biggest return on investment (ROI). Business Journals ranked New Paltz among the top 75 public universities in the nation.
Among New Paltz’s most prominent characteristics today are its strong and growing academic quality, the value it places on close intellectual engagement between students and faculty or staff, the comprehensiveness of its academic programs, its diverse student population, and its deep connections to the culture and economy of the mid-Hudson region. The College sets high standards for itself and its faculty. Faculty are committed to students and their learning and to research, scholarship and creative accomplishment that supports and advances the mission of a public comprehensive university.
The faculty and campus community are dedicated to the construction of a vibrant intellectual/creative public forum that reflects and celebrates the diversity of society and encourages and supports active participation in scholarly and artistic activity. A part of the College’s educational foundation is the belief in the importance of a liberal education: thus, in addition to their many majors and minors, the schools of the College, especially Liberal Arts & Sciences, provide core courses to the general educational grounding required of all students. Throughout the curriculum, the faculty value and foster the development of critical and creative thinking, problem solving, use of evidence-based analyses, and the ability to write and speak with clarity and precision. As evidence of focus on these priorities, President Christian has been involved in various capacities with the AAC&U LEAP (Liberal Education and America’s Promise) campaign since its inception in 2005 and is a member of the LEAP Presidents’ Trust.
New Paltz is selective in admitting students who show promise of thriving in a learning environment that is challenging, student- centered, and personalized and is grounded in best practices that include a range of high-impact learning experiences such as study abroad, undergraduate student research with faculty scholars, the honors program, internships and living/learning communities. New Paltz is a leader both in the number of students who study abroad and in the number of international students studying here. Enrollment in the honors program has been growing, as has participation in undergraduate student research and demand (and opportunity) for internship experiences.
Driven in large measure by its popularity, New Paltz has been very successful in achieving its enrollment goals and dramatically raising its selectivity goals. The College currently enrolls approximately 6,700 undergraduate and 1,100 graduate students. It is essentially operating at capacity in undergraduate enrollment. Since 2002, freshman applications have increased by 24 percent. For Fall 2014, only 42 percent of first-year applicants were accepted. In recent years, 100 percent of general-admit first-year students were in the top two of five SUNY selectivity groupings based on SAT score and high school average.
First-year retention has arisen to about 90 percent, second-year retention to above 80 percent, and four and six-year graduation rates to 55 percent and 73 percent, all well above state and national averages for both private and public colleges.
New Paltz has a strong commitment to diversity, inclusion, and the success of all members of a diverse student population. Approximately 31 percent of undergraduate students and 18 percent of graduate students are from traditionally underrepresented groups, figures that grow each year. The College has been recognized for high retention and graduation of students from historically underrepresented groups, which are well above state and national averages for both public and private institutions. “Achievement gaps” in retention and graduation between majority and underrepresented minority students are much smaller than at many institutions. The Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) at New Paltz is the second largest among the comprehensive sector in the SUNY system. This program serves economically disadvantaged students who are also academically at risk; New Paltz EOP students have first-year retention rates higher than the overall student body and graduate at rates above national averages for all students, either at public or private institutions. New Paltz has been recognized nationally for its success at engaging underrepresented students in study abroad.
New Paltz has more SUNY community colleges within a 45-mile radius than any other SUNY baccalaureate campus and has a long tradition of serving transfer students as well as incoming first-year students. Each fall, New Paltz typically admits about 1,100 first-year and 750 transfer students, and another 350 transfer students each spring. About half of each year’s graduating seniors came to New Paltz as transfers. Retention and graduation rates of transfer students are among the very highest in SUNY.
Connecting the expertise of New Paltz faculty to the region, The Benjamin Center for Public Policy Initiatives (formerly the Center for Research, Regional Engagement and Outreach [CRREO]) at SUNY New Paltz conducts and publishes impactful applied research, and assists with the use of research findings to foster discussion of important issues and create well-informed paths to improve government and governance for counties, cities, towns, villages, school districts, and other organizations throughout the Hudson Valley region. The Benjamin Center, originally founded in 2007 by SUNY Distinguished Professor (Political Science) Gerald Benjamin and then-College President Steven Poskanzer, works in such areas as charter revision, community benchmarking, community convening, data collection & analysis, education policy, economic impact studies, mapping & GIS, research, evaluation & survey design, property tax studies, redistricting and shared services & efficiency studies. While Director Benjamin reports to the College President, he interacts regularly with the academic units on the campus.