SUNY Maritime weighs options for Summer Sea Term

The following is a letter from Rear Adm. Michael Alfultis, president of the State University of New York (SUNY) Maritime College:

(THROGGS NECK, N.Y.) — I hope this email finds you and your families well. Like many of you, the faculty, staff, students, and I have been working and connecting remotely since March 23. The campus is eerily quiet (except for construction on the Throggs Neck Bridge) and we miss the daily activity of students and our colleagues.

I want to provide you a brief update on the Summer Sea Term, how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting our budget and enrollment, and our planning and preparations for the start of the fall semester.

A week ago Monday (May 4), I conducted a Facebook Live streaming session for students and parents to present the three options we are currently considering for Summer Sea Term 2020. I also explained the USCG sea day requirements and waivers we have received for how we count sea time (e.g., simulators and inport maintenance and watchstanding), degree requirements associated with SST, protocols necessary to conduct a sea term, and the pros and cons of each option. The brief can be found on the COVID-19 webpage of our website or Facebook.

I held a second Facebook live session yesterday evening to answer questions we received from students and parents last week. Today we sent a survey to all students registered for SST 2020 asking them to rank the preferred options and the likelihood they would elect to participate in SST 2020 if we receive permission from the CDC, USCG, MarAd, and SUNY. A similar survey was sent to the SST crew, faculty, and staff. Next week we will review the results and determine our path forward based on the results and current federal and state restrictions. I expect to make a decision by June 1.

We have expanded our summer ashore academic course offerings to do the best we can to help students stay on track. Fortunately, we have a record number of students registered.

Similar to colleges and universities across the country, we expect to see a decrease in our fall enrollment due to the pandemic. This directly impacts our tuition revenue, which accounts for 65 percent of our annual operating budget.

Many new students are weighing the option of a gap year or considering enrolling at a local community college for a year. As you may have seen in the news, most studies indicate that colleges can expect a 15 percent decrease in enrollment. This situation is compounded by a possible 25 percent reduction in state support. We are currently reviewing our budget for savings based on SUNY guidelines. Consequently, we have to hold off on some of our strategic initiatives.

As we look toward the fall semester, our plans and preparations will be based on guidance from New York state and SUNY administration. We have established working groups to consider the most effective preparatory and budgetary measures we should implement in the areas of academic programs, campus operations, and student life and enrollment management.

Plans for SST and the fall semester will continue to evolve and as we gain more clarity, I will be sure to keep you informed. Please know that I appreciate your steadfast support.

By Professional Mariner Staff