Getting to Know: Alfred University (NY)
Located in the Southern Tier of Western New York, Alfred University (NY) might be the one of the smallest colleges that has accredited engineering and business schools. With 1,500 undergraduates, Alfred also has a school for ceramics, a fine arts school, and a college of arts and sciences.
Alfred also has one of the nicest campus settings you’ll find anywhere, though it is quite isolated, even for New York State. It’s about an hour and a half from Rochester, New York’s third largest city, and two hours from Buffalo, the second largest. Alfred University shares a picturesque community of 4,200 residents with Alfred State College, a SUNY school. The campuses and community co-host an annual Hot Dog Day. Started by two Alfred University students, the 50th Hot Dog Day took place this past April.
Kristen Vargason, director of admissions at Alfred and I had an interesting chat. Listen now!
Committed to remaining test optional, Alfred is more likely to look harder for reasons to admit vs. reasons to deny whether it is through an essay or an art portfolio. The average GPA of last year’s incoming first-year class was a 3.4. Between 75 and 80 percent of the student body comes from the Empire State, though undergraduates have come from as far away as Alaska.
Alfred is likely to be cross-shopped against many schools.
These include art and design schools, state colleges and universities, and larger private universities such Syracuse and Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). There’s some academic overlap with RIT, but the experience at Alfred is likely to be more personal.
Saxons, as Alfred students are called, should prepare for a campus-based social life.
They should also be prepared to take advantage of recreational opportunities such as hiking, skiing or snowboarding. This is one of the few schools I’ve covered that has upper-class as well as first-year living-learning options. Saxons are likely to remain in New York State. There’s over 4,200 in and around New York City registered in LinkedIn.com and over 3,100 in and near Rochester.
Alfred University has programs that are tough to find anyplace else.
This school offers over 60 majors and more than 70 minors. But there are some that I rarely see at a school this small. Ceramic Engineering and Glass Engineering Science are signature programs, among others. A prospective biology major might also want to consider not only Biochemistry, but also Biological Anthropology, Biomaterials Engineering and Biopsychology. With the exception of Ceramic Engineering, every engineering major is also available as a minor. Visual artists can minor in any business discipline, including Arts Administration, as well as many STEM disciplines.
There’s also opportunities to mix and match to self design a program, that cross disciplines within two or more schools.. I received a video, as one example, of a recent graduate who designed her own major in Sustainability and Food Systems Journalism.
Each of the schools within Alfred has its own degree requirements. In addition, every student must fulfill a health and wellness requirement through classes, a varsity sport or ROTC. A third of all Saxons will fill this requirement through varsity sports, including football, but also less common sports such as equestrian, competitive cheer or skiing. First-year and transfer students must also participate in Common Ground, a series of small-group discussions. There’s also a global perspective requirement which can be fulfilled by taking a class or through study or an internship abroad.
You’re not likely to have large classes at Alfred. Eighty-seven percent of all classes taught in 2020-21 had fewer than 30 students. There are also opportunities to do co-op away from campus in any major or study abroad within a class or during a semester.
New York has schools with generous aid and Alfred is no exception.
I really need to praise this school for trying to address affordability. A New Jersey resident would like pay less to attend Alfred than she would to attend Penn State, Maryland or UDel as a full pay student, and likely have a more personal experience.
Alfred’s direct charges for residents–tuition & fees, room & board–are less than $55,000 for students in the liberal arts, business. mechanical engineering and renewable energy majors. Non-residents who are undecided about a major as well as those in all declared majors pay the same. Alfred was able to meet, on average, 90 percent of need for the Class of 2025.
Alfred can be a even better value if you come from New York.
New Yorkers get an additional discount if they study Art & Design, Biomaterials, Ceramic, Glass & Materials Science that drops these charges to just over $40,000, and there’s even more discounts that lower costs further.
Alfred is one of only two private schools in New York that participates in the Excelsior Scholarship program, which makes the experience tuition free for families earning less than $125,000/year. The university is also one of only two that participates in the NYS STEM Incentive Program, and the Enhanced Tuition Assistance Program.
Is the mix of academics, community and value working?
From a virtual distance, I felt that Alfred was a school that prospective students should visit, especially if they were interested in the more unique majors. Most recently, the university has consistently retained 70 percent of a freshman class. The four-year grad rate is below 50 percent. I had to wonder if students had to back track to change a major if they wanted to stay, or if a unique program was more difficult than originally expected, so they left.
In addition, Alfred does not offer Biomedical, Computer, Chemical, Civil or Electrical Engineering, all of which are available at most other engineering schools. I wondered why the school did not offer majors in Biomedical Engineering, Environmental Science or Environmental Engineering, given the location and other similar academic offerings. The university and community looked like a great place to have a maker space between different disciplines as well as an environmental field station.
I have been to several schools that have tight knit communities and a campus based social life, and I laud Alfred for trying to make this experience as affordable as possible.. But I have not been to a small school in-person or virtually that had as many unique academic offerings.
I had a sense that those who found and loved their major were most likely to be happy. I had similar feelings about the College for Creative Studies (MI), which I reviewed this past spring. Alfred is quite hands-on in many majors, due to the small size of the student body. There are also plenty of clubs and organizations for students to undertake creative projects that cross disciplines.
Alfred appears to be a very good school for someone who might be serious about one of the unique majors, or for someone who could enter undeclared, aiming for two or three possible options that have similar classes over the first two or three semesters., including a self-designed major. This is certainly true of the visual arts students as well as those who are interested in business or engineering. Alfred is also a nice option for a liberal arts major or visual artist who wants a more professional minor.
. Someone could walk across the Alfred campus and possibly find no two students with the same combination of interests. Kristen shared some student stories that prove this point. That’s why I also recommend a visit before to become familiar with the academics and a post-acceptance visit to confirm your interests and get to know your future Saxons
Report Card: Alfred University
- Four-Year/Six Year Graduation Rates: C/C
- Freshman Retention: C
- Curriculum: A
- Community: B
- Costs: A (NY residents)/B+ (elsewhere)
- Comforts: B+
- Connections: A (NYC and NYS)/C (elsewhere)
Listen to my conversation with Kristen Vargason now!
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