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In Binghamton University visit, new SUNY chancellor addresses student housing, proposed SUNY Broome merger

SUNY Chancellor John King at Binghamton with press
Vaughn Golden
/
WSKG
Newly appointed SUNY Chancellor John B. King spoke to press at Binghamton University Tuesday during his tour of the 64 campuses in the SUNY system.

Newly minted SUNY Chancellor John King addressed Binghamton's student housing woes during a visit to Binghamton University Tuesday.

The former Obama-era education secretary was appointed SUNY chancellor in December.

King said he hopes elected leaders see Binghamton University — student housing included — as an asset for the city's economic development.

"We've got to keep making the case that student housing is part of a long-term economic development strategy for the region," King said.

In October, the City of Binghamton passed a zoning law to restrict student housing in parts of the city.

King said the university is committed to working with the city to grow the supply of housing overall.

During the visit, King also weighed in on a potential merger between Binghamton University and its community college neighbor, SUNY Broome.

King said he would support further integration of housing and student life programs between the two campuses, but stopped short of calling for a full merger.

BU President Harvey Stenger initially floated the idea in December, in part, to address an imbalance in enrollment trends between the two institutions.

SUNY Broome saw enrollment fall by 37% since 2011. Fewer students are transferring to BU from SUNY Broome.

Meanwhile, enrollment at Binghamton University increased by nearly a quarter over the same period.

Fewer students means fewer funds for community colleges. Pandemic-era stimulus funds have helped to prop up finances at two-year institutions, but that money is set to run out soon.

"We're all very conscious of the changing economic circumstances of community colleges when the stimulus dollars run out," King said. "The key is to continue to grow enrollment."

King said community colleges should also be targeting students of all ages. He said he wants to expand programs that allow high school students to earn college credits at community colleges.

To pull in older students, King wants institutions to offer more certificates and “micro-credential” programs aimed at working adults.

King also said he wants to bring more students in through the transfer pipeline.

"The promise for [SUNY] Broome students that they could have a smooth transition into a four-year degree at Binghamton [University] is a way to grow enrollment at [SUNY] Broome," King said.

He said he wants to expand an existing program that allows select SUNY Broome students to live on campus at BU.

Participants are also guaranteed admission to Binghamton University if they complete a certain number of credits and meet GPA requirements.

Vaughn Golden has been reporting across upstate New York since 2016. After graduating with a degree in Journalism and Economics from Ithaca College, Vaughn reported for the Watertown Daily Times in the North Country before returning home to WSKG in 2021. Vaughn leads WSKG's Environment desk.