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SUNY Chancellor Points A New Direction For 2015


The State University of New York has set an ambitious new goal for graduation. The nation’s largest public university system wants to hand out 150,000 diplomas every year by 2020, up from the current 93,000.

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher laid out the plans today in her fifth annual State of the University address.

Zimpher told a crowd gathered at The Egg in downtown Albany she has proposed several steps to improve the college completion rate, including putting a SUNY college adviser in each of the nearly 700 school districts in the state to help students set goals and make plans.  "In my conversations with students, so many of them say that enhanced advisement early on, early in high school, will make a difference to their success in college."

She noted that by the year 2020, 7 out of every 10 jobs that command a middle-class wage in New York will require some sort of post-secondary training; 45 percent of adult New Yorkers currently hold a post-secondary, better than the national average of 39 percent, but short of the 60 percent mark experts say is necessary to meet the demands of the economy within five years.  "On our current trajectory, without putting some serious muscle under that 45 percent line, we're never going to get there. And never getting there means not enough New Yorkers ready to work in promising sectors right here at home. Never getting there means not enough New Yorkers to help grow and sustain a vibrant community. Never getting there means more New Yorkers struggling to pay their bills. More New Yorkers who risk slipping into poverty, more New Yorkers who are frustrated, who feel hopeless, who feel trapped."

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Zimpher believes SUNY needs to educate more people and educate them better if New York is to continue to be a worldwide leader.   SUNY has 64 campuses across New York, enrolls about 460,000 students and employs nearly 90,000.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan says SUNY under Zimpher is ripe with possibilities for more and more New Yorkers.    "It's what is going to help us to be able to provide the workforce of the future and to really provide opportunities for our residents. It was exciting to see the energy in the room around the work that has been done."

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Zimpher would like to see the same guarantee that the University at Buffalo provides for undergrads who want to complete their bachelor’s degrees within four years extended though the entire system.

She wants high school students to have access to an introductory online course that would walk them through the college application and financial aid processes.   "In order to provide our students with better access we also need to have an open dialog with them. A two-way discussion to help them provide for college and for us to better understand what they need when they arrive on our campuses."

She has a plan to reach potential high school applicants through a unique groundbreaking initiative:  "One way is though a 'Massive Open Online Course.' This introductory SUNY MOOC would be specifically designed to help students complete college admissions requirements, build better skills, seek grants and scholarships and understand financing. The beauty of the MOOC model is that it will provide equal and open access to all prospective students and their parents."

To Assemblyman Pete Lopez of the 102nd district, a SUNY education is priceless.   "I'm a product of SUNY. I'm half Puerto Rican. We lived in near-poverty. If it weren't for SUNY. And I'm a graduate of Cobleskill, associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s at Albany.  If it weren't for SUNY I wouldn't be speaking to you as an Assemblyman. If it weren't for the quality, affordable education that this institution brings, and that includes community colleges, I would not be here myself."

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Zimpher also announced the addition of SUNY Excels, which will track the progress of SUNY initiatives, and she declares every SUNY campus will appoint a chief diversity officer.

And there's one more thing:  "Here is our 'ask.' Bases on our shared understanding that the success of our students translates to the success of our state,  higher degrees of access, completion and success requires a higher degree of investment.  We cannot make futuristic changes on yesterday's dollar. Each of these strategies requires shared investment for shared success. So that's what we're going to do, New York. Together we will establish an investment fund that will deliver these strategies and bring solutions to scale."

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Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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