SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson delivered her second State of the University System address Thursday. At the Albany Capital Center, Johnson said the SUNY system offers “a wonderful education for the many, not the few.” She lauded public education as the key to social equality not only in New York, but nationally.
Johnson credited state support with keeping college affordable for the system’s more than 1 million students.
“New York State has done a wonderful job of removing tuition as an obstacle," she said. "With our Tuition Assistance Program, or TAP, and the governor’s Excelsior scholarships, 55 percent of SUNY and CUNY students pay no tuition.”
According to Johnson, the University at Buffalo alone serves as many low-to-moderate income students as all eight Ivy League schools combined. Still, she said the system plans to become more accessible by expanding its online platform.
"Despite our technologically sophisticated economy, New York trails 10 other states in exclusive online learning. I mean, come on, we're New York – we should be number one!" Johnson exclaimed. "If SUNY leverages the full force of our entire system, we can do much more."
Also in the works: more public-private partnerships. In November, SUNY Polytechnic Institute entered an $880 million agreement with Applied Materials for a new Materials Engineering Technology Accelerator, or META center, on the school’s Albany campus. Johnson used the address to announce an additional partnership for SUNY Poly.
"Today I'm pleased to announce a new educational partnership agreement with Airforce Research Laboratory's information directorate in Rome, New York," said Johnson. "Based at SUNY Poly, this effort will focus on quantum information science – the new frontier of computing."
In line with nearly $25 million given by the U.S. Department of Energy for research centers at SUNY Binghamton, Buffalo, and Stony Brook, Johnson said the system will actively work to become more sustainable and energy-efficient.
Johnson said SUNY needs to diversify its faculty. Using a program called Promoting Recruitment, Opportunity, Diversity, Inclusion and Growth, or PRODI-G, Johnson said SUNY will recruit 1,000 early-to-mid career professors from underrepresented groups for full-time positions in the next decade.
“It’s hard to be what you can’t see," Johnson noted. "As over one-third of our faculty approach retirement, we want to make sure that all of our students see it and be it.”
United University Professions President Fred Kowal says the academic union is pleased with the program, and is calling for additional support in the state budget.
“What has to be worked out is funding for this," Kowal says. "We are calling for a start in the first year of $30 million, which is well within, I think, the bounds of reason to ask for in this budget, so that we can begin to recruit, and hire, and retain faculty and staff from diverse communities – specifically communities of color that are underrepresented...I really look forward to working with the chancellor in advocating together for this program.”
Funding for the program will also come from private donations, with Buffalo State College receiving the first funds for five new faculty in the fall. SUNY has 64 public colleges and universities. According to Johnson, over one-third of New Yorkers hold either a SUNY degree or credentials.