Statement by SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher on "Future of Higher Education" Panel Discussion

July 27, 2015

“Today, I had the honor of discussing the future of American higher education with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, colleagues from throughout the country, and an intuitive group of faculty, staff, and students at the University of Maryland Baltimore College, and I am encouraged by a primary focus on completion.

“Increasing the number of students who complete college is the single, most impactful goal we can set as we aim to improve higher education at the broadest possible scale. It is not good enough that more than 40 percent of first-time, full-time students who enroll in a bachelor’s degree program do not complete it within six years. We have to do much, much better than that.

“That’s why SUNY is working toward 150,000 degrees every year by 2020, and why the National Association of System Heads has called on its member institutions to adopt evidence-based programs that will increase completion by more than 350,000 students in the next 10 years. These are ambitious but attainable goals that we will achieve by working collectively with K-12, government, and the private sector to implement what works.

“We know that an educated citizenry is key not only to America’s economic success but also a higher quality of life in this country. As our sector continues to tackle the considerable challenges presented by rising college costs and student debt, it is critical that educational quality drive our approach, from the earliest stages, to and through college, and into career.

“I commend President Obama and Secretary Duncan for their consistent focus on improving higher education, and I am proud to know that New York provides a national model for increasing completion.”

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive university system in the United States, educating nearly 460,000 students in more than 7,500 degree and certificate programs on 64 college and university campuses, and online through Open SUNY. SUNY students and faculty across the state make significant contributions to research and discovery, resulting in nearly $1 billion of externally-sponsored activity each year. There are 3 million SUNY alumni worldwide. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunity, visit

Sherman Jewett
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