2012 State of the University Address

2012 State of the University Address

"Getting Down to Business"

Trustees of the State University of New York, members of the New York State Legislature, Mayor Jennings, SUNY presidents, students, faculty, staff, and distinguished guests and fellow New Yorkers:Thank you, Chairman McCall. As you can see, Carl McCall is a tireless advocate for SUNY and the people of New York! We are fortunate, indeed, to have such a dynamic leader as our new Board Chair.

I am so pleased to welcome you to the 2012 State of the University Address.

It feels like it was just yesterday when we were gathered here in this very theater, speculating about SUNY in 2011.

And now, after what seems like just a blink of an eye, I can tell you—for SUNY—2012 will be even better.


I am optimistic for many reasons, of course—but especially because of the quality and the spirit of our SUNY students.

You are our thinkers and our dreamers—and fortunately for all of us, you are led by none other than our very own Kaitlyn Beachner.

As president of the Student Assembly and a member of the Board of Trustees, Kaitlyn brings skillful leadership to the table and serves as a role model for students around the country. We all appreciate your efforts—and the voice you carry on behalf of all of our SUNY students.


And, I'm also optimistic because SUNY has finally found its champion.

Governor Andrew Cuomo believes in SUNY's unlimited potential. He believes in our unique ability to drive the future of our great state. He believes in our responsibility to help each and every New Yorker attain a better quality of life. In fact, he often refers to SUNY as a "precious New York asset," "the great equalizer of the middle class," and certainly as "centers of excellence, innovation, and job creation"—all ambitions we hold in common.

As we all know, Governor Cuomo's biggest challenge is creating jobs that move the dial for New York's economy. And he has clearly chosen to do so in partnership with SUNY.

Governor Cuomo is not alone in taking on this challenge. Our 467,000 students, 88,000 employees, 20,000 committed retirees, and 3 million alumni stand ready. We are grateful to the Governor and we thank you Governor for your leadership, your support, and your commitment to SUNY.

Today, Governor, we will tell you exactly how we intend to help you help New York reassert its historic greatness and its equally promising future.


So, just when you think you've heard the last of Jim Collins, he's back! Or at least I'm bringing him back because I want to share one of Collins' central tenets that is guiding our work today. In Good to Great and the Social Sector, he writes:

We must reject the idea—well-intentioned, but dead wrong—that the primary path to greatness in the social sectors is to become "more like a business." Most businesses—like most of anything else in life—fall somewhere between mediocre and good. Few are great. Most businesses also have a desperate need for discipline...disciplined people who engage in disciplined thought and who take disciplined actions....A culture of discipline is not a principle of business; it is a principle of greatness. (Collins, 2005)

We must all, individually, as campuses, as a system, and as a state, become more disciplined in our work if we truly are to achieve greatness. We must get down to business—not just by setting goals, but by measuring them and holding ourselves accountable for meeting them.


In 2011, we started down this disciplined path showing how our campuses are making a name for themselves.

I could go on and on about all of the amazing things our campuses accomplished in 2011—but instead I will direct you to our website——where Generation SUNY tells our story through the power of social media. And with our new SUNY blog, our campuses can now directly share their stories with an audience as big as the globe.

But, you don't have to take our word for it—or from our blog for that matter. Other people are also telling our story:

These successes, of course, largely emanate from our strategic plan, The Power of SUNY, and our annual Report Card citing our progress in meeting our ambitious Big Ideas.

As you'd expect, we monitor the usual metrics:

But we are also attempting a measure unique to all of higher education—our social impact:

So we are squarely in the business of articulating achievable and realistic goals—goals that extend SUNY's capacity to help New York State; goals for which traditional measures exist and those that require new metrics; and quite frankly, goals that require a new way of doing business for SUNY. Not just 64 campuses doing their best every day and in every way—but putting SUNY's capacity to work in ways that require a big paradigm shift toward a concept that can't yet be looked up in Webster's Dictionary or searched on Wikipedia.


The concept, in a word, is "systemness."

That's right—systemness.

Yes, we actually made up a new word. But, hey, if Stephen Colbert can do it with "truthiness," so can we.

So what is it? And what does it mean?

Systemness is the coordination of multiple components that when working together create a network of activity that is more powerful than any action of individual parts on their own.

So for a university like SUNY, that means bringing together and orchestrating our system's stakeholders —that means students, faculty, staff, boards, councils, campuses, institutes, centers, the list goes on—in such a way as to deliver on our goals and realize our mission beyond what we've ever been able to achieve before.

How else could we claim that SUNY is that perfect engine to drive economic revitalization and improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers?

In short, in systemness there is great strength.

Granted, each of our 64 schools has a special identity and character. But systemness is about our great desire to nurture that individuality while also cultivating a new collective power that REALLY can deliver for New Yorkers. That's what it's all about.

There's a lot to say about systemness, and we will do so at our second annual national SUNY conference on this very topic. Just don't forget you heard it here first! And until then, you can see how we arrived at the concept of systemness by looking at the work we are already doing.


For instance, we are already achieving systemness through our approach to transfer and student mobility—helping our students earn their degrees ON TIME and getting them out into the world to start their careers.

Our mobility site is now up and running with lots of transfer tools for students.

Not only can our students transfer gen-ed courses between campuses, they can now also transfer 12 or more credits in over 50 majors.

There are only a handful of states in the country where this is true.

And we aren't done yet. Thanks to the commitment of our University Faculty Senate President, Ken O'Brien, and our Faculty Council of Community Colleges President, Tina Good, we will now tackle, together, the complete transfer of a SUNY AA or AS degree to satisfy gen-ed requirements at a SUNY four-year institution.

And get this—through the grant New York won in Race to the Top we will now create a data system for students that tracks all of their earned college credits from high school through graduate work. An easy-to-use tool like this will make it clear to students every step of the way the courses they need to complete their degree.

This is not only a breakthrough for SUNY—it is a breakthrough for students across the state because it will create a roadmap for college completion.

This is systemness at work.


Together, we've also started to seal the leaks in New York's education pipeline.

With cradle-to-career networks using the national Strive framework, we are pooling our resources to systemically drive educational reform by helping communities rebuild their "civic infrastructure" to support every child from cradle-to-career.

Civic infrastructure is not a program, but a way in which a community can organize itself to use existing resources to invest in what gets results for students.

These discussions are well underway in Rochester, Albany, and through Harlem's Abyssinian Development Corporation. And just last month, we announced the beginnings of a first-ever rural Strive-like education partnership in Clinton County.

And, with the generous support of the Governor and the Gates Foundation, SUNY is also providing the leadership for a network of 23 Smart Scholars Early College High Schools. This is not your basic AP pathway. This is providing college-level opportunities for students most people assume would never go to college.

After just one year, 3,500 students are enrolled. And 98 percent of them are on track to graduate high school prepared for college.

SUNY is also now the home of the Empire State STEM Learning Network, with support from the Battelle Memorial Institute. This partnership is all about better preparing and supporting teachers to deliver high quality STEM education—that's science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—especially to underserved student populations.

We've also made an unprecedented commitment to bringing co-op education to scale. Our SUNY Works program will place our students in paid internship settings with the companies and organizations that make New York work.

Co-op presents a win-win for everyone involved:


And the crowning achievement of 2011, let me remind you, is the passage of the historic NYSUNY 2020 legislation, orchestrated by Governor Cuomo with unprecedented legislative support.

We now have a fair, predictable, and responsible five-year tuition policy for the next generation of learners with which we can protect our students, their families, and our campuses from the unpredictable tuition increases of the past.

Combine that with a new commitment to maintain the state's investment in SUNY, called "maintenance of effort," and an additional investment in SUNY's research campuses—open to all of our campuses this year—and we are confident we have the best insurance policy for New York to realize a great return on its investment in SUNY.


But, as you know, new revenue means new responsibility. We must be good stewards of those funds—both for the state and for our students.

In December, I visited the White House along with a small group of higher education leaders to meet with President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to talk about controlling the cost of a college education.

While there, Secretary Duncan framed the conversation with what is formidably called the "iron triangle" of higher education—cost, productivity, and access and completion. He talked about how these three ideals often conflict with one another on a college campus.

But he also talked about how they don't need to. At the Federal Student Aid Conference in Las Vegas he said that "In the era of the knowledge economy, the urgency of controlling college costs is not at odds with the urgency of increasing college attainment. Both goals are necessary if society is to do all it can to help more Americans succeed and thrive in the global job market."

I couldn't agree more. When it comes to SUNY's "iron triangle," we will do all we can in the coming year—with tremendous discipline—to break the mold; again as Collins requires: disciplined planning; disciplined people; disciplined governance; and disciplined allocation of resources.


Shifting Administrative Cost Savings to Instruction

So let's take a hard look at the three walls of this "iron triangle," and how our commitment to discipline will bolster our efforts. First—cost.

One of the ways we have started to approach this is through shared services.

While SUNY relentlessly pursues universal benchmarks that other systems are applying, we can find no national metric for the dominant driver of SUNY's shared services initiative—that is, shifting the savings from administrative costs to a greater investment in student services: hiring more full-time faculty, adding more courses that contribute to degree completion, adding more academic advisors—all components of our plan to see more students degree ready and graduating on time.

So, our new SUNY Campus Alliance Networks are cost-saving collaborations of administrative functions between campuses. And their one goal is to expand academic resources and course availability for students while increasing efficiency and building the strongest SUNY possible.

The partnership between Delhi and Cobleskill is a perfect example of how shared services can work, and work well.

Seemingly overnight, the two campuses created a new structure, worked together to drive savings, and are making it work. It hasn't been easy, and I want to thank colleagues from both campuses who are realizing the benefits of sharing administrative services and working tirelessly to implement those changes.

Make no mistake—we will shift the balance between what we spend on administration versus academics and student support. To ensure this next step, in 2012 we will develop Regional Administrative Centers that will centrally process payroll, benefits, purchasing, travel, and other basic administrative services.

Further, we are working diligently with New York State's Office of Government Services to implement "strategic sourcing"—looking for cost savings not only across SUNY, but across all of New York's state agencies, together ensuring that the price of doing important government work is less costly.

And over the next 3 years, all SUNY campuses will shift—at minimum—5 percent of their administrative spending to academics and student services. That means shifting $100 million from administrative cost savings to increase our academic and instructional support.

But this isn't just about our campuses. System administration is digging deep into our bottom line and sharing costs in areas like public safety, printing, and media and technology services with adjacent campuses in the Capital District and across our New York City offices.

Allocating Resources Based on Performance

Shared services will be a huge help in moving the dial on efficiency, but we also must commit ourselves to a new resource allocation system.

In other words, we must encourage disciplined decision making through performance-based allocations.

Resources are not inexhaustible. In fact SUNY's budget has been cut by $1.4 billion over the past 4 years, so it is absolutely critical that we use our resources to achieve the results we want.

And this fits precisely with what Governor Cuomo is asking of all New Yorkers. We are prepared to drive change across SUNY—and to be an example for the rest of the state on how to make it happen.

Currently, our funding model is based on the number of students enrolled and the cost of programs at each campus. With performance-based allocations, we might, for instance, take 5 percent of the overall SUNY budget and, rather than allocate it directly to the campuses, instead allocate it to the campuses based on indicators like graduation rates or a diversity index. And we'll make these decisions using the systemwide metrics in the SUNY Report Card.

To manage this new process, we are launching the Finance and Administration Strategy Team—or as we call it, FAST. Made up of campus presidents, business officers, and faculty leadership. FAST's initial charge will be to determine a pilot program for the 2012-13 academic year, tracking metrics as if performance-based allocation already existed.

We will look specifically at business and accounting practices, expenditures and investments, and promising practices that will enable our campuses to manage enrollments, increase support for instruction and research, and then move the dial upwards on our six strategic goals of The Power of SUNY. We'll learn from that experience, and in 2013-14 academic year, campuses will see these allocations reflected in their operating budgets.

Like all of these more disciplined approaches to getting down to business, team members will provide regular updates to our campus leaders and the Board of Trustees—to drive change within our operations.

Crossing the Digital Divide

But while using our resources more efficiently and more wisely are both critical to achieving cost savings, we will never be able to realize our full potential until we overcome other obstacles in our way.

As we embark on shared services, campus presidents and business officers have proposed several opportunities for regional or statewide savings. These suggestions improve efficiency in areas such as payroll, billing, procurement, MWBE, financial aid, environmental safety, and employee benefits—just to name a few.

But, the greatest opportunity, by far, is in information technology.

We cannot make progress unless we can efficiently measure our results, and effectively share data among campuses and across the system, and refine our practices and increase our performance.

Over the last few decades, devolution of our system has led to every campus having the freedom to choose its own path for IT resources.

The result is a hodge-podge network across the SUNY system that can barely communicate and adds huge cost to every systemwide effort we make in IT. Further, this cacophony makes it difficult to work effectively with other key partners in the state, whether that's other higher education institutions, our K-12 partners, or relevant state agencies.

We can do better than that—and we will.

And so, today, SUNY's IT Transformation Team is receiving a new charge—systems integration. They will fix the system's systems.

By summer 2013, plans will be in place to move all SUNY campuses to common data systems. And by summer 2014, those systems will be implemented.


Delivering on 6 Big Ideas

The second wall of the so-called "iron triangle" we must break through is productivity.

As you know, in The Power of SUNY, our strategic plan, we have something very special—our 6 Big Ideas.

Each of the Big Ideas—the Entrepreneurial Century; the Seamless Education Pipeline; a Healthier New York; an Energy-Smart New York; the Vibrant Community; and the World—each has its own set of what we call—and this brings us back to Jim Collins again—Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals.

But how do we track these? How do we know we are moving the dial on these critical issues for New York?

That is precisely why we've created the SUNY Report Card.

In the coming year we will take the Report Card from a statement about accountability—the "You can hold us to it" promise—to a testament to progress and a tool for improvement. Let me explain this step in two parts:

To begin, we are investing SUNY resources, and looking to external support as well, in a discrete set of measurable actions. We will assess the impact of those actions by the data collected in our report card.

For example, The Power of SUNY promised to lead the way in creating green technologies—so let us then watch, by the numbers, exactly how much related research activity SUNY faculty members are engaged in. Turn to page 36 of our most recent report card—and the answer is right there: $42,722,000.

Or if you want to see how SUNY is measuring up in graduation and retention rates, turn to page 6, and you can chart our progress on these graphs. Or if you want to know about research expenditures, or library circulation, or grants won, or information about our diversity profile—it's all there in the Report Card.

Let me use our commitment to research and innovation as another example.

The Entrepreneurial Century portion of The Power of SUNY can be boiled down to three commitments:

That's a tall order. How do we intend to do this?

Well, for a start, in 2012 we will announce programs to encourage entrepreneurial thinking and intra-campus research initiatives—programs that bring our best innovations to market to improve lives and create new businesses for New York.

And in the future you'll know how effective those programs are because we will tell you in the Report Card precisely how many entrepreneurs we train, how many external research dollars we win, and how many businesses we grow. Across our 6 Big Ideas this adds up to serious economic revitalization and enhances quality of life for all New Yorkers.

Eliminating Remediation

Another hurdle to productivity is the out-of-control need for remediation for incoming students.

Remedial education—that is, taking classes in college to achieve skills that should have been mastered in high school—is one of the biggest challenges to college success nationally. SUNY spends over $70 million a year in remediation—most of this expense is incurred at our community colleges. Just to give you a sense of what $70 million means—our entire ag/tech sector only receives $63.6 million in state support. This means—for SUNY students alone—the state is spending more on remediating its high school students than it is on supporting 8 entire college campuses.

Today I want to be clear that SUNY's goal is not only to reduce remediation, not only to be more effective in delivering remedial education...but to END the need for remediation in our lifetime.

We cannot do this alone, but rather with our partners in early childhood and K-12—all working together—we can end the need for remediation on college campuses in the next decade. This is why I so often repeat the obvious theory of supply and demand: SUNY prepares the teachers, that teach the students, who come to college, ready or not. Therefore, we must share responsibility with all educators across the state to ensure that all of New York's students graduate high school, college and career ready.

And that is exactly why we are investing in fixing the education pipeline; that is why we are encouraging the creation of Strive-like networks in New York communities; that is why we have taken on the Empire State STEM Learning Network; and it is why we have partnered to establish Smart Scholars Early College High Schools.

Because every student deserves a chance to succeed in college. And when they arrive, colleges should be able to focus on preparing them for their futures, not spending time repairing their pasts.

And so, I invite K-12 leaders throughout the state to partner with us in eliminating the need for remediation—in sealing the leaks in the education pipeline. Together, with new approaches and renewed discipline, we can, in time, eliminate remediation.

Producing New York's Future Workforce

So, we're delivering on our promises, we're eliminating waste—but how are we ensuring what we produce is what we need?

Strategic enrollment management.

Like the impetus behind our efforts in student mobility, we believe strategic enrollment management is the key to ensuring that students have access to the programs and courses they need to graduate prepared to work in the competitive, global 21st-century job market.

By using the type of analysis that can be found in the 2011 How SUNY Matters economic impact report, we will ensure that what we offer meets New York's needs—providing a strong workforce, and helping to ensure jobs for our graduates.

In 2012, SUNY will achieve comprehensive strategic enrollment management in two ways. First, we will use labor statistics to calculate sector demand, from business and the social sector, and by region, for a qualified workforce. Then second, we will focus on our individual campuses, or clusters of campuses, to adjust program offerings and enrollment patterns to meet these sector demands.

For instance, we will invest in our campuses to start or expand programs identified by the state as being "high need" in fields like nursing, nanotechnology, and information technology. And we'll roll those priorities into our performance-based allocation model, holding not only the system, but our individual campuses, responsible for delivering on this promise as well.

Now, I know some of you are going to hear this as "no more English, no more history." On the contrary, business and industry repeatedly tell us that they want more graduates who are good communicators, creative problem solvers, and are also smart, well-educated, and professionally skilled. Holding this vision steady, we have a duty to focus on the future needs of the state and the citizenry that we serve—and we can, and will, make that happen with academic integrity as our top priority.


Connecting the Transfer Dots

The third, final wall of the "iron triangle" we must break through is access and completion.

For many New Yorkers, it all starts at one of SUNY's thirty community colleges.

An open gateway for opportunity, SUNY community colleges offer New Yorkers the chance to learn more, to get a head start in their careers, or to reinvent themselves for the next chapter of their lives.

And we're proud of our students who graduate with AA or AS degrees in fields that often put them to work ahead of the curve.

Unfortunately, it is not always seamless if these graduates encounter transfer problems at our 4-year campuses.

We think these students should get a fair start and so, while our community colleges already provide open access, we must do our part to ensure students can complete their 2-year degrees and if they wish, complete a 4-year degree without losing or duplicating credits.

By fall 2013, we will close the loop on seamless transfer for our community college graduates. This means an AA or AS degree from a SUNY community college will satisfy gen-ed requirements at our 4-year institutions. And we can do that because we're a system. While other states and other colleges might need to take a more piecemeal approach, our systemness allows us to bring seamless transfer to scale.

Opening the Door to Online Education

We will also work to ensure access by developing a truly open path to accessing SUNY. Hatched as part of our Big Idea around SUNY and the World, Open SUNY means great access to the best of SUNY, online, from anywhere, here and abroad.

Open SUNY has the potential to be the nation's most extensive distance-learning environment. It will provide innovative and flexible education. It will network students with faculty and peers from across the state and throughout the world and link them to the best in open educational resources.

Many other colleges and universities have adopted concepts of open learning. They've taken their best quality lectures and resources and put them on the web for all to see and gain from.

But as a system we can do this even better. We have the strength and the discipline and the vision to bring this concept to scale like no other college, university, or system can.

We'll do this through a combination of online courses, an expanded YouTube channel, and a newly created presence on iTunes U. And we'll look to our campuses already deeply invested in on-line learning; to an expansion of the SUNY Learning Network; and to the role Empire State College can play in certifying prior work and learning experience to create SUNY's on-line university.

And we'll launch in time for the fall 2013 semester.

Turning Access into Completion

And now we arrive at the final goal I will present to you today—completion.

SUNY always has been committed to access, and rightfully so. As New York's public university system we have proudly provided for decades the opportunity for any and all New Yorkers to improve their quality of life through furthering their education.

We have done so affordably and with great commitment to quality.

But access is only half the battle.

The other half is completion, and everything we have talked about today gets us one step closer to ensuring that every student who walks through our doors leaves, on time, with a degree—with the knowledge and the tools they need to succeed—in hand.

This is where, with the right level of discipline across our ranks, we will hold ourselves accountable.

This year, each campus is going to set targets to improve its completion rates. And once the presidents have agreed to these targets, we will include these benchmarks in the presidential evaluations of our state-operated campuses, and with the full cooperation of our community colleges, to make completion universal at SUNY.

Because for far too long we have left the front door open to our house, without paying adequate attention to their college completion and future success.

Today, completion becomes SUNY's number one priority. And if somebody can say it better, let me know, because my favorite quote still comes from the New York Times columnist, David Leonhardt:"Educating more people, and educating them better is simply the best bet any society can make."


And so ... I want to come back to Jim Collins one last time.

"Greatness," he tells us, "is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline."

As a system, we must make the choice to be more disciplined—and also be more disciplined in our choices. That is how we will resolve the conflicting sides of the iron triangle; it is how we will meet the Governor's challenge to do better for New York—and build the best New York.

"This is not a question of tinkering around the edges," as the Governor says. "We have to fundamentally re-imagine how government operates." So today we have imagined a new, more disciplined SUNY, one that understands and embraces the work we must do to:

That's what we are doing here today. That is what we are doing together in the coming year. Getting down to business.

I should add that it falls to me as Chancellor to push the envelope and stretch our thinking and our ambitions. But clearly this is the work of our key stakeholders, our campuses, and, ultimately, with the input and encouragement of our Board of Trustees.

Getting down to business on behalf of the people of New York: SUNY students, their parents and grandparents, siblings and other relatives: our friends and supporters; our public policy makers; and of course the next generation of learners who will not only benefit from SUNY, but give back much to the State of New York.











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