Hunter College has secured a spot in the top 10 CUNY schools with the highest retention rates. According to the City University of New York, the Manhattan-based college reported an average 81% retention rate as of 2018.
Enrollment at Hunter rose from 23,193 in 2019 to 24,052 in 2020, according to a financial report from the University Budget Office. These enrollment numbers remained constant even despite the challenging impact that COVID-19 had on life at Hunter.
During the height of the pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo closed colleges all across New York to lessen the chances of infection, leaving students and teachers to switch to remote learning.
Joanna Vila, who switched from being a full-time student to part-time, said the transition to remote learning was especially difficult.
“I was already struggling with one class prior to the switch to remote learning and the times that they had tutoring sessions I couldn’t attend,” Vila said. “In my other class, I found it difficult to fully communicate with my professors via email, especially since most of the work we did was writing papers.”
The Hunter senior said she eventually decided to drop two of her classes in the spring of 2020 to lessen the stress she felt not only from school but from her personal life as well.
Despite her decision to change from a full-time student to a part-time one, Vila said she decided not to drop out of Hunter because of the amount of credits she had already earned.
“Technically I’m a ‘super senior’ and, pandemic or not, earning my degree is my main priority,” Vila said.
Professor Katina Paron said the pandemic had her working overtime to provide her class of 15 students with prompt feedback and grading, similar to how her in-person class ran.
“My class, since it’s been online, has 15 students instead of 12, which is a significant jump in my class size, as well as my workload, which is 12 hours more,” said Paron.
She said her original in-person class was capped at 12 students, but increased by 25% to meet the demands imposed by the pandemic.
According to Irina Ostrozhnyuk, the Assistant Director of Admissions and Recruitment, 95% of freshmen admitted in fall 2020 enrolled as full-time students.
“Students have been really resilient, they’re kind of rolling with the punches,” Ostrozhnyuk said. “They’re going into it with the mentality of like, ‘No, it’s just one part of my life that is not going to be the entire college career.’”
Ostrozhnyuk said she thought Covid-19 changed how prospective students saw the school.
“The virtual space has helped the admissions office expand its capabilities,” she said. “In the past, when we had in-person events, we had to figure out, ‘How many students can you hold in one room? Is the space available?’ Through Zoom, those limitations disappeared, so we can hold events as large as we want, and sort of have faculty that may be in Morocco doing study abroad, come and speak to students.”