Chancellor Zimpher Paints Bright Future For SUNY

Jordan Perry
Contributing Writer

Opening her State of the University Address by taking a selfie with the audience, State University of New York Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher spoke about SUNY’s future with plenty of flavor on January 23 in Albany.

“Education—educating more people and educating them better—appears to be the best bet any society can make,” quoting an anonymous educator, Zimpher remarked on how this quote inspires her every day to better SUNY and has been a driving force in their formula for success at SUNY.

Focusing on the first component of the formula,  access, Zimpher stated, “We need to ensure that every New Yorker has access to the highest quality education.” SUNY currently has 64 existing campuses, so access in relation to distance is not a problem here­–enrollment is.

Evidently, low-income districts are in greater need for support in enrolling their students for secondary education, and as a result there will be a push for SUNY college advisors to be present in every district to close the knowledge gap.

Do you remember applying for college and trying to piece together the process? SUNY is going to be making that process easier than ever before by rolling out a SUNY Massive Open Online Course–or MOOC–model. This program is specifically designed for prospective SUNY students to make the admission process, applying for scholarships and understanding financing easier.

Expanding the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) is also in the plan for making higher education more accessible to New Yorkers. Currently, 43 out of the 64 campuses have this program, but 30,000 people apply annually for the program which only has 2,500 available seats.

With the program currently at-risk for losing funding, it will be interesting to see how SUNY advocates for the program’s sustainability. This initiative is an attempt to diversify the many SUNY campuses that have been criticized for marginalizing minorities. With this goal in mind, SUNY is mandating that every SUNY college appoints a Chief  Diversity Officer.

SUNY Oneonta is already ahead of this process with the appointment of Terrence Mitchell as our school’s Chief Diversity Officer,  but there is no question that Oneonta still has a long journey regarding diversity.

Zimpher noted that 93,000 graduates a year is “not enough” for SUNY. With New York at 45 percent, 1 percent above the national average of adults 25 to 64-years-old that hold a post-secondary degree, the Chancellor of SUNY says, “We need to do better.”

The goal of SUNY is for 150,000 students to graduate annually by 2020, raising the average of New Yorkers with degrees and lessening the poverty gap. To do this, SUNY is looking to use remediation teaching tools in math for students who can’t move past the remedial classes, which play a large factor in the dropout rate for colleges.

These tools have been proven to triple the success rate in half the time for students struggling with math. SUNY is also pushing for a “Finish in Four” philosophy that schools like University of Buffalo, Oswego and Fredonia already guarantee.

“The deal is, students, if the course you need isn’t ready when you are, that’s on us. SUNY picks up the tab,” the chancellor declared as the students in the audience clapped.

The final piece of Zimpher’s plan is to increase the use of online education for SUNY. Zimpher specified that not only does it need to be more accessible, but it also needs to be of the highest quality. Such a tool makes the completion of higher education easier for students that may not be traditional or have different circumstances.

Zimpher concluded the equation by discussing how SUNY plans to accomplish all of these goals for success. Focusing on faculty and legislation, the chancellor discussed how Governor Cuomo has jumped aboard supporting funding for the recruitment and retainment of high-impact faculty members as well as providing more applied learning for students. In his State of the Opportunity Agenda, he proposed both SUNY goals.

Recently, Governor Cuomo announced an $18 million fund to support SUNY’s goals, but Zimpher says we need to push for more.

“Education–educating more New Yorkers and educating them better–is simply the best investment we can make. And at SUNY we are bound and determined–we will not stop–until we deliver on all of our promises to New York. We will not stop until we are simply the best.”

A convincing conclusion to a speech that left the audience in awe, Zimpher received a standing ovation by everyone in the audience. It will be exciting to see these new ideas rolled out over the course of the next five years and interesting to see if SUNY Oneonta’s Strategic Plan begins making these changes.

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