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Catholic college admissions become more complicated as student demographics change

A orange and white brick building at D'Youville University.
Mike Desmond
D'Youville College gained approval to change its name to D'Youville University in February.

Western New York is filled with Catholic colleges built upon a network of Catholic families who attended Catholic schools and then went on to those colleges. However, that's all changed as the community has changed.

There are fewer Catholic schools and fewer young Catholics looking to attend a college based in their faith in what is increasingly a community of immigrants from places other than that of the Catholic immigrants who helped build Buffalo two centuries ago.

Shabeer Amirali, the new vice president for enrollment at D'Youville University, is looking at different ways to fill its student ranks, including more career training as the student body changes.

"All the higher educations institutions are looking into who are our students?" Amirali said. "It could be older learners. It could be students who have gone to high school, took a break and then came back to high school. It could be students who have transferred from one institution to another institution. It could be graduate students. It could be doctoral students, as we have eight doctoral programs in our programs at D'Youville University."

Amirali said he will have to explain American education to the immigrant families in the surrounding West Side neighborhood and explain how they will pay for what can be an expensive private education, while offering combined degrees that cut down the time before the graduate is on the job and getting a paycheck.

"Not only kids, the student itself. The generation has changed. The student itself is thinking about, 'What am I going to do after this?" he said. "We all think about the money. I think that the students are thinking about the time. I'm spending six years. I'm spending five years. I'm spending four years. What am I going to gain out of this?"

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.