Delivering her eighth and final State of the University Address at the Egg in Albany today, outgoing SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher highlighted what she sees as progress made by SUNY in the last decade. WAMC's Capital Region Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports she also announced the system will begin seeking private donations to expand programs proven to help keep students enrolled.
The leader of New York's public university system gave her annual assessment along with a look at the year ahead.
SUNY Chairman of the Board of Trustees H. Carl McCall preceded Zimpher on stage, reminding the crowd that her chancellorship is coming to an end. "While we still have another six months with our great chancellor, today marks her final opportunity to address this audience and map out her vision for what SUNY can achieve. As our state and our country enter a period of uncertainty, following last week's election, I find our role more important than ever."
Tracing her SUNY tenure back to its beginning in 2009, Zimpher praised the system’s accomplishments in college access, inclusion, seamless transfer, degree completion, and affordability; and announced the creation of two new SUNY entities. "Today I am proud to announce the formation of The State University of New York Impact Foundation. SUNY has never had anything like this until now—a system-level repository that allows us to actively seek private-sector investment in programs proven to expand access, drive completion, and prepare students for success. We needed a way to engage funders who understand scale. Our promise to investors: Send your money to the SUNY Impact Foundation and we will allocate it to campuses who know how to move the dial."
The second entity comes in the formation of the SUNY Center for Systems Change. "The embodiment of our aspiration to be the best at getting better. To do this, we must redouble our commitment to using data to drive our decision making; to know which interventions are moving the dial, and by how much, and for whom. And then to apply these interventions generously across the system."
During her address, Zimpher also noted half of all SUNY’s resident undergraduate students attend college tuition-free, while touting Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposed Excelsior Scholarship: "Just putting the term ‘tuition-free’ out there — that act alone — will move the dial on access. For young people who have written college off because they assume they can’t afford it, they’ll hear about this and think, 'Maybe college isn’t out of my reach.'"
The Excelsior scholarship would pay the part of the tuition not covered by financial aid. Families earning $125,000 or less per year would be eligible.
SUNY has more than 440,000 students enrolled at its 64 campuses across the state.