SUNY History banner, a black and white photo of a Ualbany graduation ceremony from the 1940s

History of SUNY

The nation’s largest comprehensive public university system, The State University of New York (SUNY), was established in 1948. Since its founding, the SUNY system has evolved to meet the changing needs of New York’s students, communities, and workforce. SUNY initially represented a consolidation of 29 unaffiliated institutions, including 11 teachers colleges. All of these colleges, with their unique histories and backgrounds, united for a common goal: To serve New York State.

Today, the system includes 64 schools, a mix of 29 state-operated campuses and five statutory colleges—including research universities, liberal arts colleges, specialized and technical colleges, health science centers, land-grant colleges—and 30 community colleges. These institutions offer programs as varied as ceramics engineering, philosophy, fashion design, optometry, maritime studies, law, medical education, and everything in between. The University also operates hospitals and numerous research institutes.

Black and White old photo of SUNY system administration

SUNY is embedded in virtually every community in New York State: Remarkably, 93 percent of New Yorkers live within 15 miles of a SUNY campus, and nearly 100 percent live within 30 miles. In many communities, SUNY is also the region’s largest employer. While SUNY students are predominantly New York State residents, hailing from every one of the state’s 62 counties, the University also draws students from every other state in the United States, the District of Columbia, four U.S. territories, and 160 nations from around the world. One out of three New York State high school graduates choose SUNY, and the total enrollment of nearly 463,000 full-time and part-time students represents 37 percent of New York State’s higher education student population. SUNY also employs 88,000 faculty and staff and counts more than 3 million living alumni, residing in New York State and throughout the world.

SUNY attracts the best and brightest scholars, scientists, artists, and professionals and boasts nationally and internationally recognized faculty in all major disciplines. Faculty are regular recipients of prestigious awards and honors.

The State University of New York is committed to serving as the state’s strongest economic and quality-of-life driver and providing quality education at an affordable price to New Yorkers and students from across the country and the world.


What is SUNY?