SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher: "Systemness" To Drive Success In 2012

January 9, 2012

Second State of the University Address “Gets Down to Business” With Focus On Cost, Productivity, Access & Completion

Albany – State University of New York Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher today delivered her 2012 State of the University Address, unveiling plans to “get down to business” following a year of milestone accomplishments. The Chancellor vowed to capitalize on SUNY’s “systemness” in order to lower cost, enhance productivity, and elevate the importance of degree completion within the country’s largest comprehensive system of public higher education.

A transcript of Chancellor Zimpher’s State of the University is available online.

 “The State University of New York has so many assets, but there is not one greater than our ‘systemness,’” said Chancellor Zimpher. “Beyond the individual strengths that each of our 64 campuses possess, there is a powerful and unmatched capacity to reach our most ambitious goals together and to realize our highest achievements. In 2012 and beyond, SUNY will tap into that power of ‘systemness’ to create a more affordable, productive, and accessible university, while doing its part to generate economic development, create jobs, and prepare the workforce of tomorrow for New York State.”

SUNY Board Chairman H. Carl McCall said, “I share Chancellor Zimpher’s passion to make SUNY a world-class educational institution for our students and to ensure that it continues to be productive, accessible and above all, affordable. As SUNY carries out the plan Chancellor Zimpher outlined today, we will make real, tangible progress toward these goals and continue our ascent as both a truly great university and a major contributor for economic revitalization in New York State.”

In today’s Address, Chancellor Zimpher outlined a plan for 2012 that expands upon programs and initiatives already at work within the system while focusing its efforts on breaking down the walls of the “iron triangle” of higher education—cost, productivity, and access & completion.


  • Shifting Administrative Cost Savings to Instruction: Through its shared services initiative, SUNY will reduce administrative costs and move those resources toward academics and student services. Regional Administrative Centers will centrally process payroll, benefits, purchasing, travel, and other basic administrative services. Over the next 3 years, all SUNY campuses will shift—at minimum—5 percent of their administrative spending to academics and student services, resulting in $100 million being invested in instruction.
  • Allocating Resources Based on Performance: The current funding model for SUNY campuses is based on the number of students and the cost of programs at each campus. Performance-based allocations are made using indicators, such as graduation rates or a diversity index, to determine the amount of funding each campus receives. SUNY will put in place a Finance and Administration Strategy Team (FAST) to manage this new process. Their initial charge will be to determine a pilot program for the 2012-13 academic year, with campuses seeing these allocations reflected in their operating budgets in 2013-14.
  • Crossing the Digital Divide: Over the last few decades, devolution of the SUNY system has led to every campus having the freedom to choose its own path for information technology resources. By summer 2013, a plan for all SUNY campuses to operate on common Information Technology (IT) data systems will be in place, and by summer 2014, these systems will be implemented across the board.


  • Delivering on 6 Big Ideas: In the coming year SUNY will take its Report Card from a statement about accountability—the “You can hold us to it” promise—to a testament to progress and a tool for improvement. SUNY will invest resources, and look to external support as well, for major initiatives found in its strategic plan, The Power of SUNY. The impact of those actions will then be assessed by the data collected in our report card.
  • Eliminating Remediation: SUNY spends $70 million a year in remediation. All of SUNY’s ag/tech campuses combined receive $63.6 million in state support. This means, for SUNY students alone, the state is spending more on remediating its high school students than it is on supporting 8 entire college campuses. The Chancellor has invited K-12 leaders throughout the state to partner with SUNY in eliminating the need for remediation over the next decade.
  • Producing New York’s Future Workforce: Strategic enrollment management is the key to ensuring that students have access to the programs and courses they need to graduate prepared to work in the competitive, global 21st-century job market. SUNY will utilize data to ensure that program offerings meet New York’s high-need workforce demands.

Access & Completion

  • Connecting the Transfer Dots: By fall 2013, SUNY will implement seamless transfer for community college graduates. This means an AA or AS degree from a SUNY community college will satisfy general education requirements at SUNY’s four-year institutions.
  • Opening the Door to Online Education: Open SUNY has the potential to be the nation’s most extensive distance learning environment, connecting students with faculty and peers from across the state and throughout the world and giving them access to the best in open educational resources. Using a combination of online courses, an expanded YouTube channel, and a new presence on iTunes U, Open SUNY will be launched in time for the Fall 2013 semester.
  • Turning Access into Completion: Access is only half the battle. Completion is the other half, and SUNY will work to ensure that every student who walks through its doors leaves, on time, with a degree. Each campus will set targets to improve its completion rates. These targets will be set by the SUNY Council of Presidents and, once agreed upon, will be included as a factor in presidential evaluations.

Chancellor Zimpher said, “SUNY will continue to marry its academic mission with its immense capacity to serve all of New York State as a driver of economic and workforce development and a partner in the improvement of education from cradle to career. We are fortunate at SUNY to work beside a governor who shares our ambition and with community leaders across the state who are focused on creating a better way of life for all of New York, now and in the future.”

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, with 64 college and university campuses located within 30 miles of every home, school, and business in the state. As of Fall 2018, more than 424,000 students were enrolled in a degree program at a SUNY campus. In total, SUNY served 1.4 million students in credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs in the 2017-18 academic year. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Its students and faculty make significant contributions to research and discovery, contributing to a $1.6 billion research portfolio. There are 3 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 opportunity, visit

Share this:


Holly Liapis
Email the Office of Communications