2015 Public Hearing on Opportunity Programs

The Changing Demographics of Students in Higher Education and Educational Opportunity Programs

Assembly Standing Committee on Higher Education
Public Hearing – The changing demographics of students in higher education and educational opportunity programs
Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Good morning. I want to thank Chairperson Deborah Glick, members of the Assembly, and legislative staff for providing this opportunity to discuss the changing demographics of students attending The State University of New York and the services and programs we offer to support their success.

I am pleased to be joined here today by our Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Alexander Cartwright, Vice Chancellor for Finance and Chief Financial Officer Eileen McLoughlin and Senior Vice Chancellor for Community Colleges and the Education Pipeline Johanna Duncan-Poitier.

As chancellor of The State University of New York system, I am always appreciative of the chance to talk about access, completion and success. That is what I saw when I read the hearing notice: your commitment to ensuring that our higher education system can adapt to meet the needs of today’s students by not only opening the doors to every single New Yorker who wants a college education, but also by making sure they leave our institutions with the credentials and tools they need to succeed in the future.

SUNY already outperforms its national peers on completion rates, but there remains much more we can do to educate more students and educate them better. We are guided by a formula: “A plus C equals S.” Access plus completion equals success.

And we are laser-focused on completion. This year, SUNY launched an ambitious completion agenda to increase the number of degrees we grant annually from 93,000 to 150,000. We came out and said we are good, but we are not good enough to meet the needs of the Empire State.

As I have stated before, for every 100 ninth graders in New York, on average only 73 will graduate from high school. Of those 73, 51 will go directly to college, but only 37 will return for their sophomore year. And then of those 37, only 23 will complete their degree on time or close to on-time. Twenty-three out of 100.

And 23 is only the average. In our upstate urban centers, the statistics show a darker picture: only 16 of every 100 ninth graders will complete college close to on-time.

Importantly, we know that far too many of these students who don’t complete from populations who have been historically underserved—underrepresented minority students and those who are living at or below the poverty level. Populations that are expected to grow in New York State.

We know that over the next 5-10 years SUNY will serve an increasingly diverse group of high school graduates, an increased number of economically and academically disadvantaged students, and a growing number of adult students who need a college degree or additional training in order to find a job or earn a promotion.

New York is one of the few states in the country with a projected increase in the high school population through 2020. With that overall growth, the number and proportion of Hispanic public high school graduates is expected to reach 20 percent of the graduating cohort. In New York City alone the proportion of Hispanic graduates will rise to 28 percent. The proportion of African American graduates will also see increases over the near term, and growth is expected among economically disadvantaged students (as determined by Pell eligibility).

In addition, as you so rightly point out, there is a very large adult population in this state - nearly 7 million - who either never attended college or who have completed some coursework but have no degree. Many of them are also academically and economically disadvantaged. We must be proactive in our outreach, and provide the right academic models and supports to fits their needs.

These demographic changes will affect key access and support programs such as EOP, child care centers, GAP funding, community schools, and support for those in the foster care system. It also affects our Educational Opportunity Centers and our ATTAIN labs.

Today I hope to answer your call by responding to two fundamental questions that I took away from the hearing notice: Are the programs that the legislature has funded the right programs to support today’s and tomorrow’s students? And of course, is SUNY using the state’s investment in those programs effectively to prepare those students for success?

The answers, unequivocally, are yes and yes.

But today, in addition to reporting on successes in some of our key programs, I will also take the chance to highlight areas where I believe we can do better, together.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

SUNY has developed a completion model that prioritizes retention and completion for all current students, supported by increased student supports and targeted initiatives to ensure inclusion.

I am proud to share that our current SUNY student body is more diverse than ever before: under-represented minority students make up 29 percent of our population, an all-time high. While this is significant, SUNY lags behind its national peers with respect to diversity of faculty and staff and overall employees. The good news is we have a new policy in place to ensure we continue to work toward our campus communities more accurately reflecting the diversity of the state.

This September, the SUNY Board of Trustees unanimously voted to adopt a broad diversity, equity and inclusion policy. Key policy elements include:

Our commitment to diversity and inclusion means ensuring that all of our students complete their program of study and earn a meaningful credential.

Thanks to your leadership, last year we were able to make new investments in key programs that support non-traditional students and underserved populations.


Currently at 43 SUNY campuses, the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) has established a record of success in supporting disadvantaged students from enrollment through completion. At the baccalaureate level, EOP retention rates range from 80 to 100 percent and the current graduation rate exceeds 65 percent, with a third of our senior colleges achieving rates in the 70 to 88 percent range. Though outcomes at the associate’s level are more modest, the current completion rate exceeds the national rate for public institutions.

The additional $4.4 million provided for our opportunity program this year has enabled us to better support success for EOP students and to establish a robust foundation for future growth:

Last year, SUNY received 30,000 applications for only 2,500 available EOP seats. This new influx of funding has made an extraordinary difference for our EOP-eligible population. Still, we have a number of campuses without EOP that have identified large numbers of students who would benefit from this proven program. We hope to work with you in the coming session to continue the momentum for EOP’s growth.

Child Care

The 2015/16 Enacted Budget provided $3.7 million for SUNY child care centers ($1.6 million at our State-operated institutions and $2.1 million for the 30 community colleges). Over a quarter of all undergraduate students in the United States are raising children. Roughly 43 percent of these students are single mothers and 11 percent are single fathers. Their access to education and a better life for themselves and their families hinges on access to quality affordable child care.

In New York State, child care can cost more than a college education. The SUNY system is fortunate that your support enables us to provide high-quality affordable child care at 50 campus-based locations:

28 Centers at Community Colleges  

22 Centers at State-operated campuses

5 Community Child Care Referral Services

The Child Care Centers depend on support from their campuses, community funds, individual donations and most significantly operating funds from SUNY from the Legislature. Even with this support, maintaining these programs is difficult. Two centers were forced to close this year due to financial strain and there are other centers currently at risk. The biggest financial burden currently facing the centers is the rise in minimum wage. In fact, last year’s $445,000 in new investment was used mostly to meet the demands of the minimum wage increase.

Many of the centers are operating in the red and paying their college-educated employees minimum wage, or close to it, because it is all they can afford and cutting staff or hours is not an option. The centers have to maintain child/staff ratio to maintain licensing and of course to ensure the safety of the children and the quality of care and education they receive.

Access to high-quality, affordable child care has been proven to have a positive impact on parent students. Research shows:

The estimated increase in spending on personnel from 2014 to 2016 is nearly $1.0 million across all SUNY child care centers. Adding in the steady increase in the cost of doing business and the inability of families to absorb an increase in child care tuition, it would be damaging if child care centers did not receive additional funds again this year and if funding were to fall below 2014 levels.

Foster Care

The new funding you allocated last year to support students who have been in foster care represents a real opportunity to help this often overlooked population. Right now, our program staff are working with students to ensure housing during the upcoming semester break—a critical need cited both by foster care advocates and campus personnel.

With this funding we are also providing supplementary counseling and advising and establishing peer mentorship relationships, academic skills workshops, and specialized programming during intersession breaks and over the summer.

Community College Community Schools Grants

The 2015/16 budget also included $1.5 million in funding to support the creation of three “Community Schools” among the 29 SUNY community colleges operating outside of New York City.

We know that too many of our students are dropping out of college due to issues outside the classroom. To keep our highest need students on the path to completion, the community schools model will enable our community colleges to become “hubs” providing critical wraparound supports, including child and elder care services, transportation, health care services, family and/or employment counseling, legal aid, and other support services.

Thirteen SUNY community colleges submitted proposals to become community schools. The selection committee will meet this week to determine the three colleges to be funded and will award each $500,000 per year for three years.

Career Centers

The 2015/16 budget provided $1.0 million in funding for career centers at community colleges in coordination with the New York State Department of Labor (DOL).

Together with the DOL, SUNY has circulated among our community colleges a request for proposals due next month.

The goal is to create innovative collaborations between community colleges, DOL, and local and regional workforce partners to link students and community members to enhanced career services and employment opportunities, particularly in the areas of information technology, staff support and coordination, innovative regional initiatives and integration of services.                                                                                                             


SUNY colleges received a total of $1.5 million in GAP funding in the 2015/16 budget and $1.7 million in both 2013/14 and 2014/15.

For the 2013/14 and 2014/15 academic years, each community college received a base allocation of $25,000, as well as additional funding dependent upon a college’s percentage share of total full-time equivalent (FTE) students and a percentage share of total non-credit FTE. With the current level of funding, the average funding per student across all colleges is approximately $71.

More than half of the colleges used all or a portion of their GAP funds for academic support services like tutoring, mentoring, and advising. Other uses included: evidence-based remedial math pathways; first-year and summer bridge programs; early alert software programs; early placement testing; consolidated course schedules; and specific development education support.


SUNY continues to leverage the Educational Opportunity Center and ATTAIN network to provide access to higher education and career programs for non-traditional and adult students. There have been over 60,000 enrollments across the state over the last 3 years. The EOCs alone have generated over 12,000 completions along with nearly 2,000 college placements, 1,200 High School Equivalency Diplomas, 5,400 licenses and certificates, and 2,000 employment placements.

Your investment in the EOCs has generated innovation across the cradle-to-career pipeline. For example, the new concurrent enrollment program established at the Syracuse EOC in partnership with Onondaga Community College’s “College Credit Now” allows students the ability to earn college credit while taking courses at the EOC without incurring any cost. Studies show that these models work when it comes to increasing high school graduation and college enrollment rates, college grade point averages, and progress toward college completion.

These are the programs we hope you will continue to invest in and incentivize across all of our campuses, programs, and centers, to help so many New Yorkers achieve their goals.

Investment Fund

The enactment of the $18 million Investment and Performance Fund last year inspired us to begin to find and uplift other successful programs across our campuses.

We maximized the state investment by pooling other state funding sources and limited existing resources to create a $100 million “Expanded Investment and Performance Fund.” We then issued a Request for Proposals to our campuses to apply for an opportunity to scale, replicate, and pilot innovative programs and initiatives. Given the limited funding and our ambitious completion agenda, we set up a competitive process to invest only in what we know works to drive student success.

In response, we received over 200 proposals from nearly every SUNY institution. I think that response speaks for itself to the benefits of this innovative funding approach.

What is clear, however, is that we do not have resources sufficient to meet existing demand. We received $489 million in requests for just $100 million available. I look forward to sharing the details of the winning proposals in the coming months, but we already know that the proposals that we do not have the resources to fund represent a lost opportunity. For example:

I could go on, but I hope you see the connection here. Thanks to your leadership, we have been able to double down on some of the programs that are most important to driving student success. Most important, we have been able to see evidence of what is most effective, so we know where each dollar spent is likely to do the most good for the greatest number of New Yorkers.

That is why in our 2016/17 Operating Budget request, we are seeking a continued and expanded investment in the Investment Fund, from $18 million available only to our State-operated campuses, to $50 million available to all SUNY institutions.

SUNY Taking Action to Move the Dial

I could talk all day about the programs being implemented across our campuses every single day to move the dial on completion.

I would remiss if I did not highlight our critical work to revamp remediation for every student who comes to our institutions unprepared for college-level coursework. Students requiring remediation at SUNY’s community colleges are a reflection of the national average, with up to 70 percent enrolling in remedial courses each year and most requiring multiple levels of developmental math.

SUNY spends more than $70 million annually on remediation and students are spending more than $80 million of their financial aid support on remedial coursework that does not advance them on the path towards a degree.

I am proud to share with you that last week, SUNY was awarded $1.8 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to bring the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s Community College Pathways initiative to scale, reaching more community colleges and some four-year schools. The Pathways include Quantway and Statway, math competency programs with a national student success rate that is double the average of traditional remedial classes.

Four SUNY community colleges – Onondaga, Rockland, Suffolk, and Westchester – already offer Pathway courses now on their campuses. Another eight SUNY campuses – Broome, Fashion Institute of Technology, Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, Niagara, Schenectady, and Tompkins Cortland Community Colleges as well as SUNY Morrisville – will be involved in the scale-up over the next year, with funds available to support additional colleges that choose to participate in subsequent years.

And our commitment to completion does not stop there. For example:


That is just a small sampling of the work we are doing every day to deliver on our promise of providing high-quality, affordable education to every single New Yorker.

We know that an educated citizenry is a more successful citizenry. We know the strong connections between higher education and better health, lower crime, higher voter turnout, and more volunteerism in communities.

We know that the higher the degree of education, the less likely you are to need public assistance. We know that college graduates overwhelmingly earn higher incomes than those who do not complete, and that graduates put more back into their local economies.

Projections show that nearly 70 percent of jobs in New York will require a college degree in 2020 while only 45 percent of New Yorkers have one. College completion is not just an issue for those individual students who are not reaching their fullest potential. The fact is that the future of our state economy depends on us being laser-focused on investing in what works to drive completion for every student.

The impact, benefits and investment of the Legislature and the Governor in existing programs are real, and I have seen the effect first hand as I travel across the state and talk to students, campus leaders, and communities. And while the programs noted are, of course, worthy of these accolades and more, what is even more exciting is what could be possible with a further and renewed investment in the ingenuity of the SUNY system.

I thank you for your time. It is always a privilege to come before you on behalf of the entire State University of New York system. My team and I are happy to take your questions.

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