Chancellor Zimpher Calls for Increased Investment in Annual Address

January 23, 2015

Sets Goal of 150,000 SUNY Degrees Annually by 2020 & Internships for Every Student

Unveils Performance Management System to Drive Accountability and Success Across 64 Campuses

Albany – State University of New York Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher today delivered her fifth annual State of the University Address, calling for increased investment in the system which will enable SUNY to scale evidence-based best practices to drive a higher degree of access, completion, and success for SUNY’s current students and future graduates.

“An investment in SUNY is an investment in the future of New York State,” said Chancellor Zimpher. “SUNY functions like a central nervous system for the state—an economic and quality-of-life driver unlike any other—and benefits everyone who lives, works, and does business here, now and in the future. Education is simply the best investment the state can make.”

SUNY will work with its campuses to build state and philanthropic support for an investment fund that will drive the expansion of proven student interventions and bring strategies to scale across the system.

To ensure excellence in the results produced by this investment fund, and in response to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s call for performance-based funding plans in his 2015 State of Opportunity Agenda, SUNY will hold itself accountable to its stakeholders through “SUNY Excels,” a performance management system that will measure the university’s achievements at the system and campus levels. SUNY Excels was developed over the last two years and will drive the next phase of the University-wide strategic plan, The Power of SUNY 2020.

Creating SUNY’s most sophisticated performance management system was a systemic, deliberative, and highly consultative process that included input from trustees, presidents, chief academic and enrollment officers, faculty and student governance leaders, and other stakeholders throughout SUNY. The performance management system focuses around five priority areas – access, completion, success, inquiry, and engagement – to track SUNY’s progress and continuous improvement toward excellence.

Chancellor Zimpher also set an ambitious goal for the system to graduate 150,000 students per year by 2020. Currently, SUNY graduates approximately 93,000 students per year. Achieving this goal would be made possible through a robust investment fund and could enable SUNY to single handedly close New York State’s degree attainment gap among working-age adults in less than a decade.

Additionally, every SUNY degree will include an applied learning or internship opportunity as a prerequisite to graduation, so that every graduate leaves campus with hands-on work experience that has prepared them to succeed in their chosen career. The initiative launched by Chancellor Zimpher in her 2014 address is supported by Governor Cuomo’s proposal to bring applied learning to every undergraduate beginning with those first enrolled in the 2015-16 school year. To bring applied learning and internship opportunities to SUNY’s 460,000 students, SUNY has formed strategic partnerships with the Business-Higher Education Forum (BHEF), The Business Council of New York State, the Partnership for New York City, and the Rochester Business Alliance.

“SUNY is out-performing its national counterparts, but we still have a long way to go in our goal of providing access to high-quality, affordable education to every single New Yorker,” said Chancellor Zimpher. “That’s why SUNY is renewing our commitment not only to educating more students, but also to educating them better. We want to take best practices from campuses across the system to the broadest possible scale, but it will require better, smarter investment from the state and philanthropic partners and continued relationships with our local businesses and industry partners.” 

In her remarks, Chancellor Zimpher highlighted the following initiatives to create higher degrees of access, completion, and success:

  • Early Advisement – SUNY will partner with its k-12 partners to place a SUNY college advisor in every school district across the state, starting with low-income districts.
  • College Readiness MOOC – SUNY will launch a Massive Open Online Course in college readiness for all high school students and their families that promotes every aspect of college preparedness, not just academic skills but also admissions, career placement, pursuit of grants and scholarships, and financial aid.
  • Electronic High School Transcripts – SUNY will advocate for a common electronic transcript to be used by all of New York’s 698 school districts to help colleges analyze new students and better advise them on their degree path.
  • Educational Opportunity Program – SUNY will seek investment and support to expand the Educational Opportunity Programs now in place at 43 SUNY campuses. These proven programs have an unprecedented demand of over 30,000 applicants for only 2,500 seats.
  • Chief Diversity Officers at Every Campus – In response to the recommendations of the Diversity Task Force launched in last year’s State of the University Address, SUNY will require a Chief Diversity Officer at every campus who is focused on attracting and retaining diverse students, faculty, and staff, and that goes above and beyond federal reporting requirements to help meet goals in retention, completion, and success for every member of the SUNY family.  
  • Remediation – SUNY will expand the implementation of the highly successful Quantway and Statway remediation programs developed by the Carnegie Foundation from 10 of its community colleges to all 30.
  • Finish in Four – SUNY will make Finish in Four programs available to all students who want them and ensure that if a student fails to graduate on time due to course unavailability, they can take the course tuition-free. SUNY will also work to build similar programs for its graduate students.
  • Open SUNY – Building on last year’s groundbreaking launch of its system-wide online learning platform, SUNY seeks an investment to make critical online support and advising services available to every online student and to maintain quality assurance in online education.
  • Master Innovators – SUNY will build on the Governor’s Master Researchers program to recruit and retain highly successful research faculty who will not only drive billions of dollars in sponsored research expenditures throughout Upstate New York but also provide invaluable research opportunities for our students.
  • SUNY Works – SUNY will realize its commitment to provide an applied learning opportunity to every graduate by partnering with business and industry.

SUNY Board of Trustees Chairman H. Carl McCall said, "Once again, Chancellor Zimpher has laid out an ambitious and visionary plan for the State University of New York in 2015. Her commitment to bringing innovative programs to scale and promoting access, completion and success for the entire system makes her a great partner for the SUNY Board of Trustees. We understand the level of investment that will be needed to move the University forward to greater success and support the programs and policies that will help do just that."

BHEF CEO Brian Fitzgerald said, "BHEF is proud to partner with the largest comprehensive university system in the U.S. in its effort to provide applied learning opportunities to all students. We understand the importance of creating deep, sustained collaborations between business and higher education as a means of aligning higher education with workforce needs and developing 21st-century workplace competencies in college and university graduates. BHEF's leaders who are collaborating in regions across the country will use their expertise to enthusiastically support this powerful SUNY initiative."

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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