Chancellor Malatras Announces New SUNY for All Program “Big Dreams, Small Step” to Close College Equity Gaps for High School Seniors

February 10, 2021

Across the Nation Colleges and Universities are Seeing Declines in Applications and Enrollment from Those Who Need it Most—First Generation, Low-Income, and Under-Represented-Background High School Students from Urban Areas

SUNY's Big Dreams, Small Step Program to Provide Additional One-on-One Application Support and Guidance for Aspiring SUNY Students at


Albany, NY – While colleges and universities across the nation are seeing declines in applications amongst high school seniors hit hardest by the pandemic, State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras announced today a new SUNY for All program—Big Dreams, Small Step—to close the college equity gap by implementing a comprehensive outreach campaign to high school students who could benefit the most from a college degree.

Before the pandemic, a student from a low-income household had only a 10 percent chance of earning a college degree, while students from higher income households had a 50 percent chance. In addition, according to the National Student Clearinghouse, declines in first-time enrollment decreased 13 percent year over year for the fall 2020 with the steepest declines amongst blacks (18.7 percent), Hispanic (19.9 percent), and Native American (23.2 percent) students. This is a cause of concern that more students from economically disadvantaged households will continue to be at a disadvantage without a college degree.

The SUNY for All program will focus on locations where applications to SUNY campuses are down the most, particularly in the Hudson Valley and New York City areas where decreases are on average 25 to 30 percent, and 40 to 45 percent, respectively.

“SUNY was created to deliver an affordable high-quality education for all New Yorkers, and if students aren’t coming to us, we need to be where they are to make sure they get that fair shot at college,” said Chancellor Malatras. “And, increasingly, college is necessary for the post-COVID jobs ahead. It is our moral obligation to close persistent equity gaps in education by making sure New York’s students aren’t left behind when there is tremendous financial and academic support from New York State and SUNY to help them earn that degree.”

SUNY Trustee Stan Litow, who chairs the Board of Trustee’s Academic Affairs committee, said, “Some would say that college isn’t necessary, and I would say that is a total lie. When you look at the data, a person with a college degree can earn 84 percent more during their lifetime as opposed to someone without a degree. College is too important in making a difference between a successful life versus a life of poverty, and it is vitally important to do everything we can to provide access to any student. My thanks to Chancellor Malatras for creating this focused program to encourage more students to apply, and for making it easier to do so.”

SUNY Provost-in-Charge F. Shadi Shahedipour-Sandvik said, “While we won’t know the full impact of COVID-19 on enrollment for some time, the declines in higher education have been happening for a while and it is even more visible during the pandemic. We simply cannot lose college bound high school students to the hardships of COVID, and in following Chancellor’s lead to meet students where they are, we have a plan and are hitting the ground running.”

Starting today, high school seniors may visit to apply to one of SUNY’s 64 campuses across New York State, including online degree options. The new campaign will include additional resources for guidance counselors and students, including one-on-one application support and guidance for first generation, low income, and under-represented high school students within New York’s urban areas. SUNY will also partner with youth bureaus, NYS public libraries, NYS Counselor Association, and other state and county agencies, as well as reach out to high school seniors directly. The initiative also includes:

  • Designated “SUNY Application Week” (Feb. 15-19), featuring individual appointments and personal support on the SUNY application (including assistance on how to apply to SUNY’s Educational Opportunity Program)
  • SUNY’s ‘personalized support service’ expansion to help applicants complete an application fee waiver and secure the endorsement of their high school counselor remotely
  • Enhanced ‘College Advisor of the Day’ programming, where high school students can book a focused, one-on-one conversation about SUNY’s offerings and the application process
  • Provide immediate, easy-to-follow guidance on applying to SUNY and where to get help

A priority for Chancellor Malatras, he has led multiple initiatives within the SUNY for All campaign since taking the role of chancellor at the end of August. In his first State of the University System address, which may be found here, Chancellor Malatras drew a direct line from today’s educational, social, economic, and workforce challenges to those facing society in 1948—the year SUNY was founded.

Through Chancellor Malatras’ SUNY for All campaign, SUNY is reaching out to more New Yorkers, including:

  • 50,000 New York learners receiving an online education through out-of-state colleges,
  • 2.5 million New Yorkers between ages 25-44 that have no college degree, and
  • high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds

SUNY began the SUNY for All campaign when it launched the free Online Training Center in December 2020. For more information, please visit

latino male student sitting down with laptop on his lap and title phrase Big Dreams Small Step overhead.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2022, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit

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