Last year, we celebrated the rich legacy of the 50-year history of St. John’s University on our Staten Island, NY, campus. As we were commemorating our past presence on Staten Island, the Board of Trustees and senior leadership were simultaneously assessing the future of the campus in light of our strategic planning process.
After careful deliberation and study, I write with a heavy heart to announce that at a recent special meeting of the Board of Trustees it was decided by a unanimous vote, with my full concurrence, to begin the process of phasing out academic operations at our Staten Island campus due to continuing significant enrollment challenges at that location.
We plan for a process that will last two more academic years, culminating at the end of the Spring 2024 semester. This two-year period will enable juniors, seniors, and graduate students to complete their degrees in Staten Island and without issue. During this transition period, we will continue to deliver all scheduled academic offerings, student services, and regular business operations to fully support the Staten Island campus. The Fall 2022 semester begins as scheduled on Wednesday, August 31.
The decision to take this step followed prayerful reflection and an extensive examination of historic and continuing population trends. Unfortunately, and as some of you are aware, the Staten Island campus has experienced steady decreases in enrollment for decades that were the result of many factors and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Fall 2000, a total of 2,309 undergraduate and graduate students were enrolled at the Staten Island campus, which can serve 3,000 students; 20 years later, in Fall 2021, enrolled undergraduate and graduate students totaled 861. Today, total enrollment at the Staten Island campus is 63 percent lower than it was in 2000. The projected decline in the college-age population on Staten Island mirrors the larger pattern of the Northeast region.
The Board of Trustees is announcing the decision now in order to provide our Staten Island community members with the fullest opportunity to deliberate about their future before the beginning of the fall semester. The announcement also gives the University the necessary time to plan a transition process that best serves our students.
Representatives of the Office of the Provost and Enrollment Management are reaching out to each of our Staten Island students, who are and remain our focus. We will not admit a first-year class at the Staten Island campus in Fall 2023—next year—and the University will implement a comprehensive academic plan, commonly referred to as a “teach-out,” so that all current students are equally enabled to complete their programs of study. The University’s teach-out plan is subject to the approval of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document, which I encourage you to review, serves as an important resource. The University will soon host a series of student and parent sessions at the Staten Island campus to provide further information, resources, and an opportunity for discussion for members of the student body. We will continue to share details of the campus transition as it moves ahead.
I am deeply aware of the lasting impact St. John’s has had—and continues to have—on the local Staten Island community since what was then Notre Dame College of Staten Island became part of our University 51 years ago. In the coming months, we will collaborate with our extraordinary partners on the island to continue to join forces in ways that will benefit the young people of the borough. We also will look for opportunities over the next two years to thank, in a special way, the more than 20,000 alumni and the dedicated retirees of the Staten Island campus who love St. John’s.
Finally, in acknowledgment of our proud history on Staten Island, St. John’s is establishing an endowed scholarship fund to support future Staten Island residents who enroll at the Queens, NY, campus. We will share more details of this endowed scholarship fund next month.
We are just at the beginning of this process and, as I shared with our Staten Island colleagues, I am resolute in my belief that the steps we are taking now, although difficult, will help strengthen the University for generations to come. My fervent prayer is for the continued success of all our students. Our unwavering goal is to ensure that St. John’s brings its mission forward within a very changed and competitive higher education environment.
In support of our mission we announced plans to construct a new, 70,000-square foot St. Vincent Hall Health Sciences Center on the Queens campus, and more recently, we have shared news about leadership-level gifts—from the D’Angelo and Davatzes families—for this important project. We expect first-year student enrollment on the Queens campus to be higher than it was last year, and significantly higher than it was in Fall 2020.
In the 152-year history of St. John’s, we have opened and phased out buildings and campuses based on the strategic direction of the University. The pivotal decision to relocate the main campus from Brooklyn to Queens in 1955 was a providential moment. Today, as it was in 1955 and at our founding in 1870, the richest resource for our students is found in our dedicated faculty, administrators, staff, and alumni.
I am grateful to every member of the St. John’s community—most especially the past and present employees of the Staten Island campus—for all you do to ensure our students’ success and for helping to carry out the University’s Catholic and Vincentian mission. As we move forward with this difficult transition in our history, let us continue to trust in God’s wisdom and to do all that we can to help each other discern and embrace the bright future that God has in mind for us.