BY GREGORY ZELLER //
The right stuff has put Farmingdale State College into a tight spot.
A number of them, actually, as the school with Long Island’s second-largest undergraduate enrollment (trailing only Stony Brook University among four-year colleges and universities) begins to burst at the seams, victim of its own “remarkable affordability, unique program mix and exceptional employment outcomes,” according to Farmingdale State.
The results of that winning formula speak for themselves. The college, founded in 1912 as the New York State School Of Agriculture on Long Island, has enjoyed a recruitment boom over the last decade-plus, with undergraduate enrollment increasing 47.6 percent between 2006 and 2016.
That’s the eight-best growth rate in the nation, according to The Chronicles of Higher Education, propelling Farmingdale State past 10,000 undergrads.
Another result, not as pleasing: The college can no longer expand – and has actually had to “restrict its enrollment,” Farmingdale State said last week.
That sits badly with the impressive collection of lawmakers and labor leaders who gathered March 8 at the Farmingdale State Conference Center to cheer for a new Applied Sciences building – and to ask Albany to pony up $53 million to build it.
The press conference, arranged by State Sen. John Brooks (D-Massapequa), included a virtual council of regional lawmakers, side-by-side with Farmingdale State President John Nader and Long Island Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO President John Durso.
Also joining Brooks at the podium were Sen. Kevin Thomas (D-Garden City), Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre (D-Babylon) and Assemblyman Steve Stern (D-Huntington), all chorusing for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other state lawmakers to step up support of Farmingdale State, “an institution that has proven to work for the long-term benefit of Long Islanders,” according to Brooks.
“Public institutions of higher learning are, at their heart, intended to grow and sustain the communities they reside in,” the senator said at Friday’s event. “It is an investment owed not just to our youth, but to the communities to which they will return.
“Farmingdale State College’s record of education and skilled worker retention on Long Island is an outstanding example of the SUNY mission in action,” Brooks added. “It is time for the state to make the right choice to invest in Farmingdale State College.”
Designed to accommodate 1,000 additional students, the new Applied Sciences building is projected as a state-of-the-art home base for the college’s Applied Mathematics, Applied Economics, Physics, Bioscience and Business Analytics departments. Farmingdale State plans to incorporate “lecture-style classrooms” and a “collaborative learning design” stocked with hi-tech amenities, as well as faculty offices and student lounges.
The $53 million budget request will be split down the middle, with the State Senate and the State Assembly each requesting half. And it’s a bargain, according to Jean-Pierre, a fifth-year assemblywoman and member of the State Assembly Economic Development Committee.
“Long Island’s future is contingent on our ability to attract and retain the next generation of workers, and there has been no greater engine for economic growth and workforce development in our region than Farmingdale State College,” Jean-Pierre said Friday. “It’s essential for New York State to commit the funds needed for this new academic building so that Farmingdale can continue to accommodate its phenomenal enrollment growth and keep our region moving forward.”
Durso credited the enrollment growth to Nader’s leadership, noting the college president has overseen the creation of programs that help students, including working professionals, “further their education … at a tremendous value.”
“Farmingdale State College has established a storied record of results preparing graduates with the tools necessary for success in a fast-changing global economy,” the labor leader added. “We urge state lawmakers to provide the capital funding … necessary to meet the needs of a rapidly growing student population.”