Chancellor Zimpher Announces SUNY Effort to Expand Micro Credentials for Students

October 29, 2015

SUNY Convenes Task Force to Support Ambitious Completion Agenda

Stony Brook University Badging Program Models One “New Credential” at SUNYCON 2015

New York City – State University of New York Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher today announced that SUNY will expand its micro credential offerings as the system aims to boost completion among students and prepare them for a higher degree of workforce success. The announcement was made during a SUNYCON 2015 strategy session where thought leaders in higher education and business discussed digital badges and other “new credentials” that are increasing student success within SUNY and nationally.

SUNY will convene a Credentialing Task Force comprised of faculty, chief academic officers, continuing education leaders and workforce development experts to evaluate the effectiveness of micro credentials – such as digital badges, stackable credentials, certificates, and even some MOOCs – and determine how they can be offered at scale within SUNY. A special industry advisory board will assist in the work of the Task Force.

“A micro credential earned from any one of our campuses will serve as an important bridge between higher education and business and industry,” said Chancellor Zimpher. “Digital badges and other types of micro credentials are precisely the kind of value-added tools we can offer students to ensure not only that they complete college, but that they are the top candidate when they start looking for a job in their field.”

“Alternate models of credentialing are emerging that support completion and success among students while having a positive impact on enrollment,” said Alexander N. Cartwright, SUNY provost and executive vice chancellor. “Our task force will ensure that SUNY students have access to high quality programs that are faculty-driven and responsive to industry and state needs.”

Today’s announcement comes in part on the recommendation of a faculty workgroup who, earlier this year, examined the capacity and benefits of expanding one micro credential – the digital badge – throughout SUNY. Citing successful badging initiatives at institutions of higher education throughout the country – including Purdue University, University of Central Florida, and the University of California at Davis – the workgroup concluded that badging would support SUNY’s Completion Agenda and benefit campuses seeking to grow enrollment.

Stony Brook University’s School of Professional Development became the first within SUNY to offer digital badges to students in July. Dr. Ken Lindblom, associate dean for Academic Programs at the school, said that students and faculty alike have embraced the opportunity to earn and provide the new credential.

“We have been offering programs that assist employers and employees for decades, and badges create a new method for showcasing the value of our programs and our student’s specific competencies and skills,” Dr. Lindblom said. “Badges are making our graduates highly desirable in the workplace, and we are eager to work with new industries to custom-make new programs. The beauty of SPD’s badges is that, because they have the vast network of resources and reputation of SUNY and Stony Brook University behind them, employers are confident of their quality.”

Sean Dermody, a current student majoring in Higher Education Administration, is one of the program’s first 10 students to earn a badge. He completed the University Badge in Higher Education Operations & Management in August, and is already putting it to work as a director of the Management Services Office at SUNY Plattsburgh.

“The greatest value of badges is that they have the potential to demonstrate attainment of certain competencies on a more granular level than certificates and degrees,” Dermody said. “In a competitive job market, earning badges is a way to differentiate oneself from other candidates. In addition, they are also a nice incentive for students to attain as milestones on the way to completion of their degree. I believe that adoption of digital badges is an indicator of the innovation that is central to the educational experience at Stony Brook University and throughout SUNY.”

Digital badges are verified micro-credentials demonstrating a student has earned a specific set of skills that align with workforce demand. Badges can enhance an online resume and can be displayed on any web-based platform including LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. They can be built into existing courses or serve as a stand-alone credential.

Following the task force’s review, these and other micro credentials could be offered by at SUNY campuses and online through Open SUNY in a variety of formats, including in-person, online, and as hybrid courses.

About SUNY’s Completion Agenda
As SUNY works to implement a Completion Agenda first announced by Chancellor Zimpher in January, it aims to boost the number of degrees it awards annually from 93,000 to 150,000 by 2020. To meet this ambitious goal, SUNY has identified programs and initiatives that have resulted in student success at one or more of its 64 campuses and is bringing them to scale across the system.

To increase access for students, the Agenda includes expanding the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), cradle-to-career partnerships, Early College High Schools (ECHS), and more. To ensure higher rates of completion and success, the Agenda includes seamless transfer and full scale ups of Degree Works, “Finish In Four” and “Finish in Two” completion guarantees, community college remedial pathways, applied learning opportunities, and more. The system is also partnering with K-12 to assess and support college readiness, and to enhance advising services that span the education pipeline.

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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