Many higher education institutions are fighting tooth and nail to keep students enrolled across the country. That's because a number of colleges and universities are closing their doors due to a lack of students.

State University of New York Chancellor John King reports a different trend. Approaching this final week of commencement ceremonies across New York state, King is weighing in on a range of topics from enrollment to layoffs.

"We are seeing a smaller number of 18-year-olds and we're approaching a real dip in the number of 18-year-olds as a country," King said. 

The fact that there are not as many college-aged students in the population is one reason for the lower rates of enrollment at colleges across the country. 

“It is true, nationally [there are] lots of challenges, but we’ve got tremendous momentum it seems,” said King. 

He acknowledges the enrollment struggles faced by colleges and universities, but says it is a different story for SUNY schools.

“The great news is that at SUNY, enrollment is up," he said. "We were up 1% overall across the system last year and more than 4% for first-year students, which is a great sign for our general enrollment trends.” 

That bucks with the trends elsewhere. reports that enrolled post-secondary students declined by 4.9% from 2019 to 2021 – the most significant decline in college enrollment since 1951. And enrollment in the spring of 2022 fell nearly 15% from fall 2020.

While SUNY’s numbers are on the upswing as a whole, some of its schools have been feeling the struggle.

“Well, look, across our 64 campuses, there’s certainly some variation," King said. "Some of our campuses have lost significant momentum over the last decade while others have grown substantially. And in some of those campuses that have lost enrollment, they haven’t made adjustments in terms of their staffing and programming to align with their current enrollment. And so those campuses have made changes. At the same time, many of those campuses are also making investments in other areas that are growing." 

The changes include layoffs at Monroe Community College and two other locations.

"Across the four-year institutions, the two places where we've made some adjustments recently are SUNY Potsdam and SUNY Fredonia," King said. "Both of those are campuses that lost about 40% of their enrollment over the last decade. And again they didn't make adjustments to programming and staffing to match with their enrollment. But both campuses are making smart financial decisions now to ensure that they can thrive for the long term.”

Adjustments are aimed at preventing closures, a decision some private colleges have been forced to make, including Albany’s College of Saint Rose.

“The campuses that are that are closing amongst the private colleges are ones that did not make those hard choices,” said King, who adds that SUNY is working to align its studies with growth areas in the economy and offers an affordable tuition that won’t leave graduates deep in debt. “But I also think that we have to keep reminding everyone that the college degree translates into so much opportunity in our economy. We want to make sure that students see at SUNY a path to economic opportunity for themselves and their families.”