2014 State of the University Address

2014 State of the University Address

Introductory video: "Best Day of My Life" by American Authors

Opening Remarks: Chairman H. Carl McCall
Welcoming Remarks: Student Assembly President Trey Price
Introductory Remarks: Lt. Governor Bob Duffy


Welcome to the 2014 State of the University Address. Surely, it's true what the video says: the best days of so many students and alums are at SUNY!

I want to thank everyone here today for taking the time to celebrate SUNY, past, present, and future: Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy, our SUNY Board of Trustees, members of the New York State Legislature, Mayor Kathy Sheehan, our amazing SUNY family — campus presidents, students, faculty, staff, alumn — distinguished guests, and fellow New Yorkers. All of us have an enormous role to play in advancing the State University—so thank you, one and all!

Building to Scale

While there are always a lot of moving parts in my annual State of the University address — and sometimes you say, too many parts — today I really want to stress three major points:

So stick with me—this is going to be an exciting ride.

Most of you here helped launch The Power of SUNY — that big, hairy audacious goal for SUNY and New York that we knew could drive the state's economic resurgence, create jobs, and educate more smart, skilled, and confident graduates to fill those jobs and enhance the quality of life for all New Yorkers.

We began thinking and acting beyond our campus walls — forging stronger partnerships with school districts, business, industry, and government—in an effort to get SUNY working at its highest potential: to be greater than the sum of its parts, to leverage its systemness, and in the process, help New York State realize its own capacity for collective impact.

Together, standing on the shoulders of those who came before us, we ran with that theory and what emerged were Six Big Ideas that have positioned SUNY to help solve New York's greatest challenges. These commitments have anchored our actions ever since.

Recall the Entrepreneurial Century, where Dr. Tim Killeen's leadership at SUNY's Research Foundation is defining New York's “Innovation Ecosystem.” Not only has our massive research portfolio resulted in breakthrough discoveries, inventions, and startups, we are witnessing an unprecedented level of collaboration between SUNY students, faculty, and industry experts to enable commercialization on a major scale.

What does this kind of growth mean for New York?

Facts don't lie: our campuses are the workhorses of the intellectual property, and in 2013 collectively spurred the production of 59 patents, 218 invention disclosures, and over $8.8 million in royalties across the system.

And look at how we're creating a Seamless Education Pipeline for New York. SUNY is now supporting 11 community partnerships statewide to help youth as they prepare for college and career. Based on highly successful proof-points from Cincinnati to Seattle, we are learning how to act collectively to support all students every step of the way. Through SUNY's newly created New York State Cradle to Career Alliance, we are poised to significantly move the education success dial in the years to come.

Moving on, SUNY's Energy-Smart New York initiative is driving more energy efficiencies. A recent stand-out example is Upstate Medical's Geneva Tower renovation, which transformed an abandoned high-rise residence into an internationally recognized green building, joining the multitude of SUNY buildings designed for LEED certification.

Then, toward a Healthier New York, SUNY remains committed to tobacco-free campuses and will continue to work with the sponsors of our legislation to seek successful passage. In the meantime, we are continuing to design and implement strategies to drive campuses toward the tobacco-free goal.

Again, our commitment to New York's Vibrant Communities no doubt contributed to last week's announcement by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Governor Cuomo—the development of a new college dedicated solely to emergency response after the destruction and devastation of Hurricane Sandy.

And through Big Idea #6, SUNY and the World, we expanded our partnership with the New York Academy of Sciences, and joined its Global STEM Alliance with Argentina, Malaysia, Barcelona, and Cisco Technologies to bring academic resources, intergenerational mentorship, and cutting-edge science and technology to students around the world.

With all of this great work, we need to note that we are not going it alone. With the passage of NYSUNY 2020, SUNY found its champion in Governor Cuomo, embarking on what has been perhaps the most valuable and productive state government partnership in SUNY history.

This landmark legislation — predictable revenues enabled by rational tuition and a maintenance of effort promise from the state—combined with careful, award-winning master planning by the SUNY Construction Fund, allowed us to channel $1.5 billion in the last fiscal year to rehab, renovate, and build anew our aging campus facilities. On many campuses, 2013 was an exciting time, breaking ground on brand new facilities…take a look at what happened at SUNY Potsdam.

New York's investment in SUNY has also boosted the confidence of our donors, resulting in recent record levels of philanthropic contributions. Thirty-five campuses are now poised to do even more in the coming year with the launch of new fundraising campaigns. Together we will again top $300 million across the system in 2014.

In addition, we remain on target to reach our goal of at least $100 million in savings as a result of shared services. Nearing the end of its second year, we've reached the halfway mark and those savings are being plowed back into academic services and faculty growth.

Also in recent years, SUNY has turned a sharp focus on remediation, seamless transfer, and completion.

Toward that end, SUNY is making real progress.

We are the first system to have every one of our campuses registered to participate in the nationalStudent Achievement Measure — or what you might know as SAM. This web-based, user-friendly program provides more accurate graduation data that will show that SUNY's degree completion rate is much higher than previously thought—very good news for New York.

I am also proud to say that in 2013, SUNY adopted the most comprehensive policy on seamless transfer in the country, in service to the nearly 30,000 students who transfer across SUNY campuses each year. We didn't just address the transfer of a few subject areas—something that many of our peers have done. No, we adopted a policy that assured the seamless transfer to all campuses of every single course approved for SUNY's 30 credit gen-ed requirement and selected major courses. More than 400 faculty were involved in the initial development of our 38 transfer paths, and now more than 1,100 faculty are engaged in finalizing this outstanding accomplishment. Thank you, faculty leaders!

Further, SUNY's statewide network of 23 Early College High Schools now enrolls more than 5,000 students from every background and in some of our state's most challenged zip codes. Add to that SUNY's 14 emerging P-TECH high schools, and we are creating success stories all across the state. The average graduation rate at our Early College High Schools is 84 percent—significantly higher than the statewide average of 74 percent. At our Early College High Schools students are earning college credit and enrolling in college at some of the highest rates in the nation.   

Last year as well, we answered President Obama's clarion call for increased affordability and transparency in financial aid. By launching the SUNY Smart Track campaign, today all of our campuses—2- and 4-year alike—are now using a clear and standardized Financial Aid Award Letter. Now prospective SUNY students and their families can calculate the costs of college to the penny and plan accordingly. No other system in the country can say that.

And inquiring minds are noticing. To underscore SUNY's excellent bang for the buck, just last week Kiplinger ranked nine SUNY schools as “Top Values” in public higher education nationally. Congratulations to Stony Brook, New Paltz, UB, Oneonta, Purchase, Fredonia, and Plattsburg—and to Geneseo and Binghamton for cracking the top 20 among some very stiff world-class competition.

All said, 2013 was a very exciting year for SUNY…and here's just a sample.

It's easy to see why President Obama came to SUNY to outline his vision for the future of higher education in America. And the president is right. We are doing great things here that should be emulated in every state.

We are good, but we can be even better. And it helps to have friends in high places that are pushing us to do even more. In June, Governor Cuomo unveiled START-UP NY. This initiative — like no other in the nation in its scale and innovative use of university-industry-government partnerships — designates our SUNY campuses as tax-free zones for new and expanding businesses. Nowhere in the world do businesses and communities stand to benefit more by partnering with higher education than here in New York—a mighty hub of innovation, diversity, and skilled human capital.

To fulfill START-UP NY's full promise, we are transforming how we manage enrollment to create and expand degree programs that meet these new, high-need employment areas. In partnership with the state departments of labor and economic development, we are using state employment data to determine New York's workforce needs. Last year alone, we awarded 36 campuses more than $12 million to meet regional workforce demand in engineering, health care, renewable energy, agriculture, and information technology.

In the true spirit of systemness, all 30 of our community colleges came together last year in an unprecedented collaboration to address workforce needs state-wide. With the support of our New York Congressional delegation, and in partnership with more than 150 employers and professional associations, SUNY is using this federal grant to prepare thousands of students for careers in high-demand advanced manufacturing. Participating employers such as GlobalFoundries, IBM, and GE have been so happy with the results that they have made a commitment to let SUNY students be first in line for more than 3,000 openings.

We have recognized as well that ensuring a pipeline of highly qualified high school grads requires highly qualified teachers. Hand in hand with Governor Cuomo, we have raised our academic admissions standards for our teacher education programs to 3.0, and we are serving as the backbone for New York's Master Teacher Program — providing incentives to keep New York's best teachers in the state's classrooms. As I have said repeatedly, we prepare the teachers who prepare the students who come to college ready or not. We OWN this challenge!

Success with Scale

The initiatives I have highlighted so far make a compelling case for how SUNY is in fact driving New York's economy and quality of life.

And at SUNY that's what we're all about—meeting challenges head on. Like the projection that New York will need at least 1 million more new bachelor's degrees earned by 2025 to meet workforce demand.

But how do we do this on a scale large enough to truly make a difference? How do we provide unprecedented access to SUNY's high-quality affordable education?

Well, I'm glad you asked!

I am beyond excited today to lay out for you a massive endeavor, one that—without a doubt—embodies all of the ideals we have embraced over the past few years.

In 2012, we “opened the door” to online learning. Then, last year, we set an ambitious agenda to expand access to an additional 100,000 students in three years. Now, with the development of an innovative learning platform we can combine:

Today, we introduce Open SUNY.

Online education is arguably the hottest topic of the day, but I want to be clear: this isn't about SUNY being trendy. It is about making sure New Yorkers have the educational opportunities they need to be successful in the 21st-century economy.

And it is no small task. Today, 6.9 million New Yorkers have a high school degree but no college education. Meanwhile, by 2025, 60 percent of job opportunities will require at least a bachelor's degree. So, we've got a lot of ground to make up, and that's where online education can step in.

To be the nation's leading online learning experience, in true SUNY fashion we pulled together 300 stakeholders from every campus to develop this vision. We call this our digital DNA, and it is all about strong student supports, the best in academic programming, campus and system-level infrastructure, and, perhaps most important, a vibrant network of expert and committed faculty.

The good news is, we didn't have to start from scratch. SUNY is already a power player in online education. Today, 85,000 SUNY students are enrolled in 12,000 online courses taught by 7,000 SUNY faculty with more than 150 fully online and incredibly high-quality degree programs. In fact, last week U.S. News & World Report included seven SUNY campuses among the best in the online business, ranking SUNY Delhi #1 in the nation.

But, we know New York has untapped potential. People with real commitments and constraints — jobs, children, aging parents, financial limitations, community ties — very real factors that limit access to traditional higher education. So we are going to bring access to them by harnessing new technologies. In essence, Open SUNY will allow us to reach everyone on their own terms. This increased “anytime” access will mean that students won't be shut out of classes they need to graduate. And by vastly increasing access in this way, we are speeding completion, which is clearly an effective way to cut college costs.

So today, we are launching eight on-line programs offered by six of our campuses that we are calling “Open SUNY+” — meaning they carry unique features that go beyond our existing online programs. They are:

The Open SUNY+ programs now available are in areas like:

Will the Presidents initiating these innovative Open SUNY programs please stand and be recognized!

And that's just the immediate future of Open SUNY. The number of degree programs and courses will continue to grow exponentially in the years to come.

Through Open SUNY's Center for Online Teaching Excellence, our faculty can join a professional development community and hone their skills. For faculty looking to push the edge of the envelope, the Open SUNY Scale-Up Lab will provide an outlet to experiment with and pilot innovative learning practices.

And Open SUNY students will be supported by a student concierge — a 24/7 helpdesk with tutoring, mentoring, degree planning, and advisement services, as well as financial aid information. We will also engage in recruiting more students, focused on the population of 6.9 million undereducated adult New Yorkers. And together with our stakeholders — and with careful review, technological enablers, and faculty engagement — we will build or adapt offerings, like a gen-ed package, industry-recognized specialized and laboratory certificates, and more — because Open SUNY's support of our academic offerings is absolutely unlimited.

Because of our system's diversity, reach, and scope, Open- DOT- SUNY- DOT-edu could become the nation's largest, most extensive distance-learning environment.

The Balancing Act
New academic delivery models, like Open SUNY, have, however, ignited a debate. In spite — or even because — of these kinds of developments, some critics think that there's a cheapening of higher education.

“Critics are raising the alarm that speeding up college and making it cheaper risks dumbing it down.” – The Atlantic (1)

I take issue with this kind of criticism and so does New York Times journalist Frank Bruni. He writes:

“We're in a tricky, troubling spot. At a time when our nation's ability to tackle complicated policy problems is seriously in doubt, we must pull off a delicate balancing act. We must make college practical but not excessively so, lower its price without lowering its standards and increase the number of diplomas attained without diminishing not only their currency in the job market but also the fitness of the country's work force.” (2)

Frank's got it right, and we know it! It's SUNY's responsibility to make the most of these technologies, to push the limits of what they can do to better serve our students and our state. This means experimentation. It means pioneering. It means trying new things. And it means ensuring the enhanced quality of everything we do. And at SUNY, that's what we're all about.

Systemness and Collective Impact
So where do we go from here? I think it's fair to say, we're learning a lot from our Open SUNY experience:

In short, our systemness looks a lot like collective impact—the idea that genuine change requires disciplined action by dedicated partners who are willing to work together to solve problems. In other words, moving from a thousand points of light to concentrated engines of coordinated, coherent interventions to drive change.

Our progress is proof positive that only a focused and united effort will generate the kind of reform New York—even our country—needs to remain a global leader in education.

So 2014 will be all about renewing and furthering SUNY's commitment to New Yorkers, and doing so on the shoulders of our strong, innovative partnerships that span the state and are attracting national attention. I have a few examples to make this point.

Power of SUNY Refresh
First, we'll turn the lens on ourselves and revisit the plan that brought us this far. As we enter the fifth year since the launch of The Power of SUNY, we will take a fresh look at this plan to assess the quality of our performance and the depth of our impact over the next five years, ending in 2020 by hitting even more ambitious targets. We think this is exactly the kind of transparency called for in President Obama's scorecard initiative.

SUNY Works
Second, I want to talk about SUNY Works, a program that encompasses internships, clinical experiences, and cooperative education opportunities offered by our campuses in partnership with the state's employers. SUNY Oswego and FIT are leading campuses, partnering with some of New York's foremost employers.

But, let's go further.

Our goal is that every SUNY student has an applied learning experience by graduation. It won't be a requirement, because it doesn't need to be. We know that the vast majority of our students will want to participate—already, over 50,000 SUNY are. Our goal remains: an applied learning experience for EVERY SUNY student.

That is why, in 2014, to promote the expansion of SUNY's successful cooperative education and paid internship initiative, I will personally engage the CEOs of every Fortune 500 company in New York and other large employers with the goal of 100 percent participation in SUNY Works. SUNY will form a Co-Op Task Force comprised of business leaders from across the state focused on expanding SUNY Works and supporting Governor Cuomo's START-UP NY economic development plan.

Launching the Fifth Network of Excellence
Third, the SUNY Networks of Excellence, introduced this year with a $4 million commitment from the Research Foundation, represent SUNY's capacity for collaboration at its best.

In four high-demand areas our networks are bringing together SUNY's top scholars and industry experts to spur research and commercialization. These areas include Energy, Healthcare, Neuroscience, and Manufacturing, and a fifth to be launched this year in the Arts and Humanities. Going forward, we will measure outcomes achieved by each network and invest additional funding—at least $1 million more per network this year—to support workshops, collaboration, and proposal development for external funding.

Access, Completion, and Success
Fourth, to make sure every student in New York finishes high school ready to succeed in college, we need to double down on our commitment to steadily decrease the need for remediation.

I mentioned earlier the very important work that our Early College High Schools are doing. But we need to attack the stubborn reliance on remediation from multiple angles: 

STEM and Teacher Preparation
Fifth, there is no denying the importance of the STEM disciplines in today's global economy. That's why SUNY's efforts to support STEM are directly linked to our teacher education and workforce development programs. In his State of the State Address, Governor Cuomo proposed providing full tuition scholarships to the top 10 percent of high school graduates if they pursue a STEM career at a SUNY campus and then work in New York for five years.

Beginning this year, in continued partnership with Governor Cuomo, the State Education Department, and school districts across the state, SUNY will introduce incentives for students who choose teaching careers in STEM fields.

SUNY as Reflection of New York's Diversity
And finally, while we are calling for unprecedented access to our colleges and universities across New York through programs such as Open SUNY, we must ensure that SUNY continues to reflect the unique diversity of New York among our student, faculty, and administrative bodies. Therefore, I'm naming a special Task Force to propose ways to improve the diversity in our SUNY family. Our goal is yes, to catch up with the diversity of this great state…and to surpass it!

Innovation at Scale
So… that's the road ahead. But before I let you go…here's a line I've been replaying lately.
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.

Commonly attributed to Charles Darwin, that attribution is incorrect. Rather, it was a man named Leon Megginson — an expert, not in biology, but in management.

And so here is SUNY's greatest advantage — because not only are we strengthening our system, not only are we creating breathtaking new ideas and technologies, we are also pushing outward in every direction every day to adapt to the needs of a changing world.

This is the evolution of education in action…this is the delicate balancing act — systems and institutions learning to become leaner, smarter, stronger, and more resourceful through the very kind of hard work that SUNY is leading. And this is innovation at scale.

That's why our dynamic, great system was created more than 60 years ago—to give everyone a chance to better themselves, their lives, their families' lives, and their communities, through education. And today, with your help…and your ingenuity….and your talents…and your energy…and your vision…and your drive, SUNY is breaking all the old boundaries to give every New Yorker—as well as those beyond our borders, and from around the world—access to the opportunities they need to develop the skills and knowledge to build better lives.

Through innovation, through collective impact, through our systemness and our sense of responsibility to the people of the great state of New York, this is THE POWER OF SUNY, still and always.

There is simply nothing like SUNY anywhere else in the world.


(1) Timothy Pratt, “We Are Creating Walmarts of Higher Education,” The Atlantic, Dec. 26, 2013, http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/12/we-are-creating-walmarts-of-higher-education/282619/

(2) Frank Bruni, “College's Identity Crisis,” New York Times, Oct. 12. 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/13/opinion/sunday/bruni-colleges-identity-crisis.html?_r=0

What is SUNY?
Content Related By: