Stony Brook University President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley delivers his...

Stony Brook University President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley delivers his "State of the University" address, Wednesday. (Sept. 15, 2010) Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Stony Brook University Wednesday announced a surprise cap on undergraduate enrollment - just a few months after it was deluged with a record number of applications.

Citing $59 million in state aid cuts in the past two years, president Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said the limit is necessary to guarantee courses remain available to undergrads and to keep faculty-student ratios manageable.

Delivering his first convocation speech to an auditorium filled with professors, Stanley added, "This is not a step we take lightly."

Stanley said the decision is especially difficult because of the high-quality students clamoring for a place on the campus. Since 2000, the average freshman SAT score has risen by nearly 80 points, he said. He said the university again will enroll 2,700 freshmen next year, although it had hoped for an increase.

Stanley's speech touched on what he called "some of the most challenging times" in the university's 50-year history, as costs soar and the state reduces funding. While welcoming 61 new faculty members, he noted that of the university's 14,500 employees, at least 224 have signed up for early retirement.

Stanley chided unnamed state legislators for blocking a plan to allow SUNY campuses greater autonomy to raise tuition without the OK from Albany. Some politicians have said the plan would block access for the poor, but Stanley said the so-called "differential tuition" would have ensured greater financial aid to those in need.

"We believe that every high school student in New York should have the opportunity to be educated at a great - let me say that again, great - public university, just like students in Michigan, North Carolina, California and Pennsylvania."

This year alone, Stanley said, the university cut $30 million by shuttering most of its campus in Southampton, closing offices in Manhattan and pruning other costs. He predicted $10 million more in state cuts next year, and expects to repeat another $10 million in one-time cuts made this year for such things as travel, publications and supplies. The school's budget is $2 billion.The speech drew a somber reaction from Arty Shertzer, president of United University Professions, that represents 2,500 employees. "If the state expects us to produce quality programs here, we need the resources," said Shertzer, who opposed the differential tuition proposal.

Latest videos