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Syms is Soaring: Student Enrollment Continues to Increase

The Sy Syms School of Business is on the rise. An ever increasing amount of students are deciding that Sy Syms is their college of choice. Enrollment in Sy Syms has skyrocketed from 409 students in the Spring of 2012 to 619 students enrolled for the current Fall semester. Over the last three years, Syms has seen its student body increase by 48 percent. At one point (2008), Syms had as many as 693 students, but amid rumors that the business school was closing, students became more hesitant to enroll; enrollment continued to decline until 2012. While students have been flocking to the business school, Yeshiva College and Stern College have seen a mild decline in their student enrollment. Since 2012, enrollment in Yeshiva College and Stern College has dropped by 11.5 and 3.5 percent respectively.

The focus on business among undergraduates is hardly specific to Yeshiva University. With student debt exceeding $1 trillion ( and a bleak job market, students across the country started to invest their efforts in degrees that they felt would help them pay off student loans more quickly and that would lead to financial stability in the long run. Also, with tuition prices rising every year, reports like Forbes’ “Top 50 Return on Investment Colleges 2014” have come to the forefront of conversation among high schoolers and their families. It also comes as no surprise that less students are pursuing degrees in liberal arts disciplines. A study conducted by and published in Business Insider and  found that only 2 percent of employers are actively recruiting liberal arts degree holders.

But Syms’ growth is not completely attributable to external factors. Over the past three years much has changed at Sy Syms. In June 2012, Dr. Moses Pava took over as Dean of the Sy Syms School of Business. Along with Associate Deans Michael Strauss and Dr. Avi Giloni, Dr. Pava has been working tirelessly to make significant improvements to the business school and provide students with an undergraduate experience that will yield tremendous benefits upon graduation and beyond. “We’re (the deans) in meetings every day, either by phone or in person, discussing how we can make things better” Dr. Pava told me.

In March of 2013, the Sy Syms School of Business became accredited by The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AASCB International). AACSB International is one of the oldest and most well known global accrediting bodies for business schools that offer undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees in business and accounting. As of the March 2013, only 672 business schools worldwide held the accreditation. Not only did Syms’ accreditation affect current students in terms of their chances on the job market, but it also played a key role in making Sy Syms a more attractive place to enroll. Since the announcement of Sy Syms’ accreditation, they have seen a net gain of 127 students.

Sy Syms’ accounting department has always been strong, the Sy Syms front office has ensured the continuity of the accounting program by adding a Masters program for accounting students. By offering the MS program, Sy Syms, by definition, strengthened its accounting program as a whole. Two years ago, Sy Syms students scored second overall among all schools in New York on the CPA exam. “The top accounting students (at Sy Syms)  perennially get big four offers, which most schools can’t say” said Dr. Pava.The new programs along with the track record of the school have been able to reinforce its overall attractiveness to aspiring accountants.

Another major contributor to the wealth of students signing up for Sy Syms is the Sy Syms Business Honors and Entrepreneurial Leadership Program. Launched in 2012, and under the direction of Associate Dean Dr. Avi Giloni, the mission of the program  “is to enhance the educational experience of its high-achieving business students” and focuses on “providing honors students with enhanced entrepreneurship opportunities; significant interaction with senior faculty in business, the liberal arts and sciences; and career-changing contacts with global business leaders and senior executives”( Currently, 76 students are enrolled in this program. “most of these students would not be in the business school if not for the program” Dean Pava told me. “this honors programs gives students access to scholarships that would otherwise not be available to them.”

Some may argue that too much focus on business at the undergraduate level takes away from the college experience and doesn’t provide students with the necessary intangible skills to survive in the workplace. Professor Rachel Mesch, Associate Professor of French and director of the YC core explained: “scores of recent studies, opinion pieces and data have shown that business students benefit tremendously from a liberal arts education and courses in the Humanities (English, History, Philosophy), where they learn crucial critical thinking, problem solving, and analytical skills...through the kinds of classroom interactions and discussions which these kinds of classes encourage.” She noted that the liberal arts classroom is the best place for aspiring professionals to learn “how to communicate with people with different ideas or who come from different backgrounds” She added by saying that “These are invaluable skills for career success”.

The Deans of Sy Syms have taken note and, as of last semester, have removed operations management and microeconomics from the Sy Syms Core in order to make room for students to experiment with courses that they find interesting. Especially at YU, where most students spend only three years on campus, this change to the curriculum enables students to make, even the most slight, decisions about what they want to gain from the University as a whole. Other changes that Sy Syms has made to the curriculum include the new Business Analytics and Marketing major and incorporation of Business Halacha into the core.

When it comes to Finance, The Sy Syms School of Business has made a concerted effort to provide students with a balance between the theoretical aspects and the technical & practical skills directly relevant in the workplace. For the last couple of years, with sponsorships from a private donor, Sy Syms hosted a financial training course on the Beren Campus given by Adkin Matchett & Toy (AMT). AMT is known, throughout the finance industry, as leaders in financial training for analysts and investment bankers.

The course covered topics including financial modeling and valuation fundamentals. “The course gave me a chance to apply what I learned in the classroom and broaden my knowledge of finance and related fields” said Sammy Banilivy (Sy Syms ‘15). Sy Syms is also adding two courses for next semester including a course on real estate investments and another that will focus on mergers & acquisitions.

Dr. Pava noted that another one of the main features unique to Yeshiva University, and the Sy Syms School of Business is its strong connection with Israel. Sy Syms currently has a multitude of Israeli professors on staff including Marketing & Management Department Chair Tamar Avnet, Finance Department Chair Abraham S. Ravid, Professor Rachel Calipha and Professor Galit Ben-Joseph. Sy Syms has been working hard to strengthen its relationship with Israel; Dr. Pava added by saying that every year that he has been Dean, Sy Syms has had at least one visiting professor from Israel.

Dr. Pava predicts that there is going to continue to be an demand for business education at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. When I asked him about his qualitative goals for the student experience at Syms he replied: “Not only are they getting a good education but also good advising, career services and professors to talk to outside of the classroom, almost of of our faculty serve as role models to our students.”