Chancellor Zimpher Sets Forth Bold Plan to Expand Access to SUNY's Top Quality, Affordable Education in 2014 State of the University Address

January 14, 2014

Launches Open SUNY Online Degree Programs To Students Worldwide

Aims to Expand Co-operative Education and Paid Internships Initiative to Fortune 500 Companies

Albany — State University of New York Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher today delivered her fourth annual State of the University Address, announcing that the system will build on SUNY's progress over the past four years and take successes to scale with innovative new programs that will expand access to SUNY's top quality, affordable education and continue to prepare all students for success in today's global economy.

Chancellor Zimpher launched Open SUNY, the system's comprehensive online learning platform, which is now offering eight degree programs through six campuses, with plans to grow its portfolio in 2014 and beyond.

Additionally, the chancellor announced an expanded SUNY Works program for which a new task force of business leaders will help SUNY engage Fortune 500 CEOs throughout the state in an effort to get 100-percent sign on to SUNY Works, which encompasses the system's experiential learning initiatives such as co-operative education, internships, service learning, community service, and clinical opportunities.

“There is simply nothing like SUNY anywhere else in the world,” said Chancellor Zimpher. “Our unprecedented, innovative partnerships with government, business, education, and New York's communities — pulling together everyone who has a stake in the quality of education—is enabling SUNY to increase access to college exponentially, help more students complete their degrees on time, and ensure that every student in the state has the experience he or she needs to succeed in the world.”

“Chancellor Zimpher's leadership has made SUNY the envy of public higher education nationally, and put our system in a position to model the future of our sector,” said SUNY Board of Trustees Chairman H. Carl McCall. “Again this year, she has laid out an ambitious agenda for SUNY that will continue to build upon the momentum of our successes in previous years while propelling us forward.”

A transcript of Chancellor Zimpher's address, as well as an archived webcast and supporting documents is available online.

Chancellor Zimpher announced the following new initiatives:

The chancellor introduced Open SUNY with the launch of eight online degree programs, highlighting this signature initiative's potential to vastly increase access, speed degree completion, and increase success among students and graduates. In addition to the eight new programs unveiled today, Open SUNY will take every online course offered at every SUNY campus – ”now upwards of 12,000 course sections conducted by 7,000 faculty” – and make them easy to find and accessible for every SUNY student. The initiative also aims to reach the 6.9 million adults in New York who have a high school diploma but no college degree.

“Open SUNY will completely redefine access to a college degree in our state, reaching every child and adult in New York, and reaching them on their terms — in their homes, schools, and communities, and on their time, adapting to their schedules,” said Chancellor Zimpher. “By vastly increasing access in this way, we are speeding completion and cutting costs for our students like never before.”

“Open SUNY+” degrees carry unique student and faculty supports that go beyond SUNY's existing online offerings, and they are closely aligned with the state's workforce needs. The Open SUNY+ programs announced today are:

SUNY Works Expansion to All Fortune 500 Companies in New York
To promote the expansion of SUNY's successful cooperative education and paid internship initiative, Chancellor Zimpher will engage the CEOs of every Fortune 500 company with a presence in New York and other large employers with the goal of 100 percent participation in SUNY Works. Additionally, the chancellor will establish a Co-Op Task Force comprised of business leaders from across the state to recruit new businesses to the program, with a focus on regional Chambers of Commerce and companies coming to New York as part of Governor Cuomo's START-UP NY economic development plan.

“The value of experiential learning is simply too good to pass up, and we want to ensure that every SUNY student – ”whether they attend on campus or online –” has an opportunity to gain hands-on workforce experience in their career field prior to graduation,” said Chancellor Zimpher. “Students and employers alike benefit from the increasingly sought-after experiences supported by SUNY Works, and we are determined to get 100 percent sign on from New York's Fortune 500 companies.”

New Network of Excellence
Chancellor Zimpher announced that a fifth SUNY Network of Excellence will be launched this year to focus on the Arts and Humanities. The networks, introduced in 2013 with a $4 million commitment from the Research Foundation, bring together SUNY's top scholars and scientists and industry experts to spur research and commercialization in Energy, Healthcare, Neuroscience, and Manufacturing. As SUNY continues to support these networks with the goal of making them self-sustainable within five years' time, the Research Foundation 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.

Diversity Task Force
To ensure that SUNY's student, faculty, and administrative populations continue to reflect the unique diversity of New York State, Chancellor Zimpher will establish a special Task Force on Diversity to evaluate SUNY's diversity and make strategic recommendations for its effective expansion.

College Readiness Initiatives
As SUNY continue its comprehensive efforts to prepare more of New York's children and youth for college and decrease the state's excessive reliance on remedial education, SUNY will engage state education officials and K-12 educators and administrators on several new initiatives to:

  • Better communicate to high school students the academic skills they need for college-level Math and English;
  • Incentivize high school students to take more Math by offering college credit in the fourth year; and
  • Develop a universal diagnostic, taken by students in the 10th grade, to assess their pathway toward college readiness.

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

Recent successes highlighted by Chancellor Zimpher today include:

This initiative created by Governor Cuomo–”unlike any other in the nation in its scale and innovative use of university-industry-government partnerships–”designates SUNY campuses as tax-free zones for new and expanding businesses, bringing unprecedented new opportunities to SUNY students and faculty.

Teacher Education
In partnership with Governor Cuomo in 2013, and in recognition that ensuring a pipeline of highly qualified high school graduates requires highly qualified teachers, SUNY raised the academic admissions standards for its teacher education programs to a 3.0 GPA, and the system is serving as the backbone for New York's Master Teacher Program–”a competitive program that provides incentives to keep New York's best teachers in the state's classrooms.

Seamless Transfer
In service to the nearly 30,000 students who transfer across SUNY campuses each year, SUNY's student mobility policy now assures the seamless transfer to and from all campuses of every single course approved for SUNY's 30 credit gen-ed requirement, and the coursework students need to complete the degree requirement of their major. UNY's has the country's most comprehensive transfer policy.

Student Achievement Measure
SUNY is the first public university system to have every one of its campuses registered to participate in the Student Achievement Measure (SAM), a web-based, user-friendly program that provides more accurate graduation data that will, over time, show that SUNY's degree completion rate is highly competitive.

Shared Services
SUNY remains on target to reach its goal of at least $100 million in savings generated as a result of its commitment to shared services. Nearing the end of this initaitive's second year, SUNY has reached the halfway point, with more than $50 million in savings across the system being reinvested in services that directly benefit students.

Early College High Schools
SUNY's statewide network of 23 Early College High Schools now enrolls more than 5,000 students from every background in some of our state's most challenged zip codes. The average graduation rate at these schools is 84 percent–”significantly higher than the statewide average of 74 percent. Additionally, ECHS students are earning college credit and enrolling in college at some of the highest rates in the nation.

Financial Aid Transparency
SUNY's Smart Track campaign is the nation's most aggressive and comprehensive initiative to ensure financial aid transparency. All 64 campuses are now using a clear and standardized Financial Aid Award Letter. Together with new systemwide financial literacy tools, and the rational-tuition policy firmly in place, prospective SUNY students and their families can calculate the costs of college to the penny and plan accordingly.

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

Share this:


Holly Liapis
Email the Office of Communications