SUNY Chancellor reveals ambitious agenda

SUNY schools hope to serve as a national model for higher education. As part of that, they plan to offer several new online degrees and establish an innovation hub that combines research with academic and workforce training.

State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher delivered her third annual State of the University Address Tuesday, highlighting the value of a college degree and setting an ambitious agenda for the year ahead. "SUNY's progress and the system's unprecedented level of collaboration with schools, communities, and businesses are having an astounding collective impact on New York State and all who live and work here," said Chancellor Zimpher. "We believe SUNY has a national roadmap for education and we are committed to using it."

Chancellor Zimpher introduced several new goals, including:

**Launch of Open SUNY in 2014, including 10 online bachelor's degree programs that meet high-need workforce demands, three of which will be piloted in the fall. Open SUNY will leverage online degree offerings at every SUNY campus, making them available to students system-wide using a common set of online tools, including a financial aid consortium so that credits and aid can be received by students across campuses. Chancellor Zimpher said Open SUNY enrollment will reach 100,000 students within three years, making it the largest online education presence of any public institution in the nation.

**Full Adoption of SUNY Smart Track and decreased student debt default rate. By 2014, every SUNY campus will have adapted the SUNY Smart Track program, including using the newly developed system-wide Financial Aid Award Letter based on the federal Financial Aid Shopping Sheet. Through Smart Track, SUNY's student debt default rate will decrease by at least 5 percent over the next 5 years.

**Leveraging the combined capacity of Open SUNY and SUNY Smart Track, Chancellor Zimpher committed to the development of Three-Year Bachelor's Degree Programs, to be offered via Open SUNY, furthering SUNY's commitment to affordability and the reduction of student debt.

**Development of the SUNY Plus Diploma Designation, which will annotate a student's participation in any one of SUNY's experiential learning programs. Whether a student had a co-op experience, volunteered regularly at a local non-profit, or worked with a professor to start a new business, the new SUNY Plus designation will ensure that these out-of-the-classroom experiences will be recorded on an extracurricular transcript and designated on the diploma as an added value. Every student will have access to experiential opportunities, even those attending online.

**Establishment of a SUNY Innovation Hub by 2015 that combines next generation research, academic and workforce training, and the major needs of the community will be developed in partnership with the state's Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs) for every major metropolitan area in New York. These efforts will also align with the Governor's Innovation Hotspot initiative.

**Common Data Systems to be implemented at all SUNY campuses in 2014, including an IT delivery platform, indicators for data entry, and targets for comprehensive SUNY success. Common data systems will serve as the foundation for performance-based funding throughout SUNY, parallel to Governor Cuomo's plan for the system's community colleges.

"Investing in a low-cost, high-quality college education is simply the best investment anyone or any country can make for their citizens," Chancellor Zimpher said. "The past few years have been tough on the economy, but there's only one solution-we are going to have to educate ourselves out of this mess. We need to put more well-educated graduates into the world to create and innovate our way into the new economy."