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Dowling shutters Brookhaven dorm, some classes

Thomas Richter, a student at the Brookhaven Dowling

Thomas Richter, a student at the Brookhaven Dowling College campus, in front of the campus in Shirley. (Aug. 21, 2013) Credit: James Carbone

Dowling College -- struggling to solve its continuing financial and enrollment problems -- plans to close the dormitory at its Brookhaven location and move residential students and some classes from there to its main Oakdale campus.

Students who expected to live in the Brookhaven dorm will be moved in September either to a Dowling dormitory in Oakdale or to a residential facility at a nearby campus of St. John's University, also in Oakdale.

Food and student services and the library at Brookhaven have either been closed or will close. Dowling will continue to use its Brookhaven athletic facilities.

Dowling College interim president Norman Smith said Wednesday students studying for a doctorate in education or taking flight and air traffic controller training requiring special equipment will continue attending classes in Brookhaven.

All other aviation classes will move to the Oakdale campus.

"You have two massive campuses to maintain," Smith said, pointing to the two separate libraries and food operations. "It just doesn't make sense."

The number of full-time-equivalent students registered for Dowling's fall semester stood Wednesday at 2,500, Smith said. That represents a decline from 2,747 for fall 2012, state enrollment figures show.

Smith said he expects more students to register before the semester begins.

In a telephone interview, Smith said he hopes the changes will help stem Dowling's financial losses. He said there are no plans to sell the Brookhaven campus.

Dorms on both Dowling campuses were half-empty last school year and the Brookhaven changes make financial sense, said Smith, who was recently hired.

The plan represents an effort to "right-size" the small liberal arts college, Smith said.

"Right now, I'm not sure what our future ideal size is going to be," Smith said.

Current plans envision the Brookhaven campus as a center for graduate programs for "midcareer" professionals seeking advanced degrees.

Smith said Dowling officials have embarked on a marketing plan designed to draw students from New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania to the Suffolk County school.

The newly announced changes don't give students much time to consider alternatives before classes start Sept. 3. Students learned about the plan in an email from Smith on Tuesday.

Aviation management student Lillian Izquierdo, 20, a junior who has been living in the Brookhaven dorm, said Smith's email "broke my heart."

Izquierdo said using the Dowling shuttle to travel between Brookhaven and Oakdale for classes will take up valuable study time.

"It's very convenient because most of our classes are in Brookhaven and the airport is right there," Izquierdo said.

Senior Thomas Richter, 21, who has been living in the Brookhaven dorm and was junior class president last year, said: "Incoming students were promised a certain set of amenities in the Brookhaven dorm."

Smith said students who were paying more for amenities in spaces that resembled motel suites in the Brookhaven dorm would pay less if they end up in more traditional dorm rooms.

Richter, who majors in aerospace systems technology, also said, "To be honest, I do feel that the consolidating of the campuses is a smart idea."

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