Binghamton University undergraduate admissions continues to see encouraging numbers of applications despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Along with an increase of out-of-state applications, BU undergraduate admissions has seen an increase of 33 percent in applications to the Decker College of Nursing and Health Sciences. Donald Loewen, vice provost for undergraduate education and enrollment management and associate professor of German and Russian studies, believes the increase is because of BU’s competitive nursing program and the inspiring efforts of frontline health workers.

“When I was thinking ahead to the new application cycle, I wondered whether the pandemic would lead to fewer applications or more nursing applications,” Loewen said. “The answer is overwhelmingly ‘more.’ I think that people are hearing about our highly ranked program and impressive new building. The incredible work done by nurses during the pandemic has inspired a lot of people, including high school students.”

On top of this, the rate of students returning to study at BU remains the best in the SUNY system, according to Loewen.

“The one-year retention rate was right about 92 percent for the first-year students who started in fall 2019,” Loewen wrote in an email. “That’s a bit better than the fall 2018 cohort and in line with what we had for several earlier cohorts. It’s the best in SUNY and among the top results for public universities anywhere in the country.”

Kaylee Harmon, a sophomore majoring in nursing, is pleased by the growth in applications.

“Many people have questioned me in the past year about whether I still want to be a nurse, given the immense toll taken on nurses working on the frontline during the pandemic,” Harmon said. “I’ve always responded that it’s made me even more confident in my decision, so I think it’s great to hear that so many others have been inspired in the same way! Decker [College has] an amazing program that provides its students with so many opportunities for growth, especially now in our new building, and I’m so proud to be a part of it.”

One area where admissions is looking forward to expanding is the amount of international student enrollment. Due to the travel restrictions currently in place due to COVID-19, students outside of the United States have been unable to travel to BU for their education.

“The pandemic certainly impacted international student enrollment across the country, including here at [BU],” Loewen wrote. “For many students, it just wasn’t possible to travel. Admissions looks to connect with prospective international students and to share what they’ll get if they join us for a [BU] undergraduate education.”

Although many of these international students come from India and China, the admissions office is still working to recruit new students from across the globe.

“Globally, India — and especially China — are the countries that have the most students who travel internationally to study,” Loewen wrote. “Chinese students make up more than 34 percent of all international students in the [United States]. At the same time, we want to recruit globally so that we have many international perspectives included on campus. That’s a big part of the increased international focus that [BU President Harvey Stenger] featured in his recent ‘State of the University’ presentation.”

According to Loewen, travel bans may have lessened the number of international students, but they actually helped out-of-state applicant numbers increase. Loewen credits this to the more widely accessible virtual recruitment efforts from the admissions team.

“The big increase in virtual recruitment events has been really helpful for people who live farther from campus, including out-of-state students,” Loewen said. “Because we couldn’t travel to visit them, we looked for every opportunity to connect virtually — we’ve got Zoom drop-ins daily, regular information sessions, virtual campus tours, lots of special sessions. The efforts look like they’re paying off — compared to last year, out-of-state applications are up.”

Adam Cohen, a sophomore majoring in computer science, is an out-of-state student from California. Cohen is looking forward to the possibility of more out-of-state students joining him at BU.

“To me, [BU] is an out-of-state gem,” Cohen said. “It is not well known at all in California, but it has a surprising number of attractions, such as its price, compared to other California schools, its Jewish life and its academic offerings. I think [BU]’s increase in virtual outreach and out-of-state admissions is an awesome initiative and seeing some more fellow Californians here would definitely be a welcomed change.”

As college decision day approaches, Byron Gittens, senior assistant director for undergraduate admissions and admissions counselor, said he and the rest of the admissions team are committed to working toward making sure incoming students are confident in their choice to attend BU.

“The most rewarding part of my job during the pandemic is to be someone they can come to for stability and assurance,” Gittens wrote. “The core process of inquiry to enrollment has not changed in the college admissions process, however, we must continue to move through these items in a safer way. Luckily [BU] has not missed a beat to provide support along with the tools and resources to continue positive and effective outreach to our families. We are still meeting with students, families and counselors regularly, and these conversations are very rewarding as an admissions counselor.”