Chancellor Zimpher Announces 100% SUNY Participation in Student Achievement Measure

February 4, 2014

New Comprehensive Measure of Degree Completion Gets Boost from SUNY Leadership, National Higher Education Leaders Say

Albany — State University of New York Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher recently announced that SUNY is the largest system of higher education to reach 100 percent participation in the Student Achievement Measure (SAM), a national web-based transparency initiative that will provide a more comprehensive measure of college student progress and degree completion than ever before. National higher education organizations say SUNY's leadership is valuable.

Graduation rates as traditionally measured count only first-time full-time students who start and finish at the first institutions where they enroll. SAM goes beyond that standard measure to also report the outcomes of students who attend multiple institutions, those who transfer in and out and those still enrolled and working toward a credential.

“This new, more comprehensive measure of student progress and completion is an important tool as public higher education institutions nationally seek to be totally transparent and accountable to current and prospective students,” said Chancellor Zimpher. “SAM will provide a clearer and more accurate measure of graduation rates, and we are proud to have every SUNY campus participating in this important initiative.”

Nationally, more than one in five students who complete a degree do so at an institution other than the one where they started, and 15 percent of students had previously attended college in at least one other state, according to a recent study by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. At SUNY, roughly 38 percent (or two of every five) students who earn a degree do so at an institution other than where they first enrolled, and of those, 75 percent earn their degree from another SUNY school.

The six national higher education associations that initiated SAM agree that SUNY's full participation adds to the measure's value, and could be an impetus for others to sign on.

“SUNY is going beyond government reporting requirements so that students, their families, and the general public have a much clearer understanding of student progress,” said Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). “SUNY is demonstrating its very real commitment to greater transparency while also serving as a model for other university systems across the country.

“Because SUNY is comprised of campuses in every sector of higher education, its participation also underscores the flexibility and utility of SAM – that it can be used to more completely detail the progress and success of students at different types of institutions.”

Muriel Howard, president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), said, “SUNY is to be congratulated for its commitment to the Student Achievement Measure. Not only is this commitment important for the schools and students in the system, but it also serves as a wonderful example for other institutions and systems. SUNY's commitment to SAM recognizes how important it is to track student progress since many students cannot complete college in four years; this is an enormously valuable tool in an institution's degree completion efforts.”

SUNY began using a similar measure to track student completion in Fall 2011, establishing the “SUNY Success” metric in the system's Power of SUNY Report Card. By tracking where students transfer to and from within SUNY after their initial enrollment at any campus, the success metric has allowed SUNY to capture its true graduation rates by campus and across the system.

“To date, SUNY has been able to look at its own transfer and completion data, and that has been very valuable, but SAM enables us to take our analysis to the next level,” said SUNY Interim Provost and Vice Chancellor Elizabeth L. Bringsjord. “With SAM, we are able to see how our data compare to that of public institutions nationally. Our participation in SAM is an important step forward in fulfilling our promises of accountability and openness to SUNY students and their families, and it supports our ongoing efforts to increase completion and success.”

About SAM

SAM has two reporting models – one for students enrolled in bachelor's degree programs and one for students enrolled in associate degree programs or certificate programs. The models include transfer students, part-time students, full-time students, and the outcomes of students who enroll in multiple institutions.

The bachelor's degree model tracks both full-time students attending college for the first time and full-time, transfer-in students attending the reporting institution for the first time. The bachelor's degree model will report on the percentage of students who – after four, five, and six years – have graduated either from the reporting institution or a subsequent institution, as well as students who are still enrolled at the reporting institution or a subsequent institution.

The associate degree/certificate models track both full- and part-time students attending the reporting college for the first time. The associate degree/certificate model will report on the percentage of students who, after six years, have graduated either from the reporting institution or successfully transferred to another institution, as well as students who are still enrolled at the reporting.

The SAM Project is a joint initiative of six national higher education presidential associations: the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), the American Council on Education (ACE), the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU). The six partner associations include 3,000 postsecondary institutions and annually enroll nearly 24 million undergraduate students.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York 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 2023, 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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