SUNY Announces Second Application Week to Help Those Hardest Hit by Pandemic Apply to College this Fall

March 11, 2021

Part of SUNY's "Big Dreams, Small Step" Campaign to Address the College Enrollment Gap Among High School Seniors from Underrepresented and Low-Income Backgrounds, Includes Application Fee Waivers and Dedicated Support

Across the Nation Colleges and Universities are Seeing Declines in Applications and Enrollment from Those Who Need it Most—First Generation, Low-Income, and Under-Represented-Background High School Students from Urban Areas

SUNY Launches Ad Campaign to Encourage Students to Seek Application Support and Stay on Track for College this Year

Albany, NY
– With the year-long pandemic triggering a sharp decline in college applications among low income, first generation, and underrepresented high school students, State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras today announced a second SUNY Application Week designed to help those students apply to college. Between March 15 and March 19, SUNY Application Week features personal appointments and one-on-one support and application help, particularly for first generation, low income, and underrepresented high school students within New York's urban areas.

Application Week is a part of SUNY's "Big Dreams, Small Step" campaign to address the college enrollment gap, which includes a digital advertising campaign launched this week to directly inform and encourage high school seniors, as well as automatic application fee waivers—for up to $350 in savings—for low-income students previously announced by Chancellor Malatras last month. SUNY is also working with partners across the state, from nonprofit organizations and school districts to individual students and alumni, to help bring attention to this critical issue.

"As we recognize the one-year anniversary of the official COVID declaration, there is a feeling of hope with each vaccine administered that we will soon see growth and opportunities as our economy rebounds, and for our part at SUNY, we will do everything we can to make sure New Yorkers are equipped with a good education to succeed," said Chancellor Malatras. "But we must do it with an eye towards achieving equity. Through ‘Big Dreams, Small Steps' we are simplifying the process of getting a post-secondary education and directly contacting more students to make sure they are informed and empowered to take this step. College is a possibility, and when we close persistent equity gaps so that more students from economically-disadvantaged communities get an education, then we will have delivered on our mission for New York."

SUNY Board of Trustee Gwen Kay said, "One of the highlights for many high school students during their senior year is being able to celebrate getting into college and feeling excitement for what's in store. Yet, the pandemic has created additional barriers for some of New York's most vulnerable high schoolers when it comes to applying to college, ultimately stifling their dreams and putting their academic pursuits on hold. SUNY is stepping up to help uplift these students and we thank Chancellor Malatras and all involved for making this issue a priority and providing assistance to students who need it most."

SUNY Board Trustee Stan Litow said, "The pandemic has seriously affected so many areas of our lives, especially for high school students from low-income and under-represented backgrounds, who have already had difficultly moving through the college application process. Many of these students are the first in their families to seek an opportunity to attend college, and bring themselves out of poverty. I am thankful Chancellor Malatras is making it easier for them to do so by eliminating hurdles to a college education."

Prior to the pandemic, a student from a low-income household had only a 10 percent chance of earning a college degree, while students from higher income households had a 50 percent chance. In addition, according to the National Student Clearinghouse, declines in first-time enrollment decreased 13 percent year over year for the fall 2020 with the steepest declines amongst Blacks (18.7 percent), Hispanic (19.9 percent), and Native American (23.2 percent) students.

At SUNY, year-over-year applications for fall 2021 versus fall 2020 are down among Black/African American students by 18.5 percent, Hispanic students by 17.9 percent, and down 3.2 percent for white and Asian students. The declines are steeper for those students if they also come from New York City public schools: 29.3 percent, 31.9 percent, and 9.2 percent respectively.

High school seniors may visit to apply to one of SUNY's 64 campuses across New York State, including online degree options. As a part of "Big Dreams, Small Step," there are additional resources for guidance counselors and students, including one-on-one application support and guidance for first generation, low income, and under-represented high school students within New York's urban areas. SUNY has also partnered with youth bureaus, NYS public libraries, NYS Counselor Association, and other state and county agencies to reach more students, as well as contacting high school seniors directly. The initiative also includes:

  • SUNY's ‘personalized support service' expansion to help applicants complete an application fee waiver
  • Secure high school guidance counselor endorsement remotely
  • Enhanced ‘College Advisor of the Day' programming, where high school students can book a focused, one-on-one conversation about SUNY's offerings and the application process
  • Easy-to-follow guidance on applying to SUNY and where to get help
  • Virtual information sessions on financial aid, "How to Apply to SUNY," and "Which SUNY Are You?"

A priority for Chancellor Malatras, he has led multiple initiatives within the SUNY for All campaign since taking the role of chancellor at the end of August, including:

  • 50,000 New York learners receiving an online education through out-of-state colleges,
  • 2.5 million New Yorkers between ages 25-44 that have no college degree, and
  • high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds

SUNY began the SUNY for All campaign when it launched the free Online Training Center in December 2020. For more information, please visit

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY's 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.3 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2021, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunity, visit

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Holly Liapis
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