Paul Smith’s College tries to buck declining enrollment trend

November, 2019

By Rick Karlin

When Green Mountain College in Vermont announced last January that it was closing, recruiters at Paul Smith’s College didn’t hesitate. Within days they said Green Mountain students could transfer and continue their educations at Paul Smith’s, about 120 miles away, without missing a beat.

The northern Adirondacks college needed them.

Staring down a demographic shift that threatens small schools across the Northeast, Paul Smith’s wasn’t alone in courting the Vermonters. But for a college whose training and science programs are woven throughout Adirondack life, the stakes apply across a region as big as Vermont itself.

Both schools were small and located in remote mountain areas, which was a big part of their calling cards. They appealed to students who were interested in environmental studies and were seeking the kind of atmosphere offered in a small, rural campus, although Paul Smith’s, with about 700 undergraduates, was almost twice the size of Green Mountain’s Poultney campus when it closed.

“The culture at Green Mountain is very similar to what we have here at Paul Smith’s. There’s a real emphasis on sustainability,” Paul Smith’s chief marketing officer, Shannon Oborne, said at the time.

Students from Green Mountain were offered the same tuition, about $26,000 per year including room and board.

Ten students ended up enrolling.

Financial struggles forced Paul Smith’s to cut back five years ago. The college laid off 11 people and left 12 other position’s open—a 12 percent staff reduction at that time. Conditions appeared to stabilize that fall, as enrollment climbed by 60 students, to 892. Enrollment has declined since, though.

Paul Smith’s College’s relationship with the Adirondacks is analogous to many small towns that host a college or university. Such schools often have an outsized influence, bringing cultural, research and educational opportunities that might not otherwise exist. In the case of Paul Smith’s, though, the host is really the entire Adirondack Park rather than a particular town or ZIP code.

Read the full article in the Adirondack Explorer