Governor announces plan to revitalize her state’s university system and make it a global leader in equitable economic revitalization

On January 5, 2022, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced a plan to revitalize the State University of New York (SUNY) system, making it the best statewide system of public higher education in our nation.

In a strategy that could have been inspired by the 2020 book, RECONOMICS: The Path To Resilient Prosperity, Governor Hochul is partly basing that revitalization on making the system the global leader in research and curricula related to equitable economic revitalization.

She is calling on a reimagined SUNY to propel New York to become the world’s leader in innovation, equitable economic growth, and upward mobility. This will require SUNY to achieve ambitious goals by 2030 to become the state’s engine for economic development and upward mobility.

This transformative plan will secure SUNY’s place as a globally recognized higher education institution, expand SUNY’s global reach as a leader in research and innovation, support students and set them on the path to economic success, and focus on equity so that students can thrive no matter their background.

My family’s life was changed because my father was able to afford a college education. New York must have a statewide world-class public university system that can change lives for the next generation of students,” Governor Hochul said. “We must seize this moment to revitalize SUNY, lifting up students from a broad and diverse range of backgrounds while at the same time transforming the institution into a global, 21st century educational leader.

These goals include increasing enrollment by one third to over 500,000 students with enrollment and completion rates reflecting the state’s diversity; preparing hundreds of thousands of people for in-demand jobs and upwardly mobile careers; recruiting and supporting top faculty and staff; providing affordable credentials and degrees to all kinds of learners; and doubling sponsored research, start-ups and patents so that SUNY can catalyze economic innovation and good jobs all across the state. Success on each of these goals will depend both on overall progress as well as advances in equity.

To help achieve these goals, Governor Hochul’s plan to expand SUNY’s reach begins with making the institution into a global and national leader on research and innovation:

  • Revitalize Albany and Binghamton as nation-leading research and teaching universities: University at Albany and Binghamton University will be transformed into nation leading research and teaching universities, with a goal of achieving $500 million each in annual research funding. This will increase the economic impact of applied research and development, expand and diversify student enrollment, and improve graduation rates. Governor Hochul also plans to propose that the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) reunite with the University at Albany to streamline management and promote research excellence. Binghamton University will also host BATTERY-NY, a technology development and manufacturing center. The Center will support the Southern Tier economy by developing the advanced manufacturing of batteries for clean energy technologies that will transform the transportation, military, and energy sectors. The Center will also establish a robust manufacturing infrastructure to support multiple industries and their supply chains;
  • Transform Stony Brook and Buffalo into global research institutions: Stony Brook University and University at Buffalo will become the flagships for SUNY, as well as world class research institutions. These campuses will look to meet the goal of $1 billion each in primarily federal research funding by 2030. This would put these two universities in the top 20 public universities nationally in research expenditures. As a first step toward strengthening these institutions, Governor Hochul is announcing $102 million for a new academic building for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University at Buffalo, and $100 million in funding to construct a multidisciplinary engineering building at Stony Brook;
  • Lean into the strengths of each part of the SUNY system – including not only the Doctoral-Granting Institutions but also the comprehensive colleges, technology colleges, and the community colleges: This will include investing in areas of current and potential research strength, provide equity grants statewide (as described below), and boosting compensation and recruitment programs for faculty and research – with flexibility to offer more competitive faculty packages and to include a focus on attracting and retaining a more diverse and highly qualified faculty;
  • Build “Labs for the Future” Statewide: Labs and scientific facilities in all types of SUNY institutions and programs, should be repaired and modernized; and
  • Grow enrollment through developing institutional specialization: To encourage each SUNY campus to establish its own distinct identity, SUNY will create a challenge grant available to colleges that propose an area of distinction designed to grow enrollment and improve student job outcomes.

Governor Hochul will also take major steps to ensure SUNY serves students well, preparing them for the careers of the future and allowing them to graduate without crushing loan debt.

This initiative will include:

  • Streamline application and financial aid processes: The new Efficient Application for SUNY Education (EASE) initiative will allow students to apply to all SUNY schools with a single common application process, and will push and help more students to complete their FAFSA through a new FAFSA Completion Corps. The New York HESC should also make recommendations for an overhaul and streamlining of various financial aid programs and create a single streamlined process to qualify for and receive aid. This initiative will also pilot a debt-forgiveness program to release so-called “stranded credits” for any student that re-enrolls at any SUNY campus. The State will also explore building FAFSA completion into high school graduation;
  • Simplify and improve the SUNY transfer process: SUNY will develop a comprehensive cross-campus transfer and articulation policy, including between non-degree and degree-granting programs. This includes expanding seamless transfer and articulation agreements, to ensure an easy transfer approach should apply to any SUNY course or program – no matter the primary affiliate campus. It also includes exploring the development of a statewide common-course numbering for SUNY to simplify the current SUNY Transfer Paths, the development of guaranteed associate degree transfers into SUNY four-year degree programs, and a statewide reverse transfer to retroactively grant an associate degree to students who had not completed the requirements of an associate degree before they transferred to a four-year institution; and
  • Jobs accelerator to build bridges between education and work: To better meet employer demands and student needs, SUNY should create a Jobs Accelerator program designed to tailor offerings around New York’s highest-growth occupations, including healthcare, digital technology, and green jobs. This will build upon SUNY’s Applied Learning Program by expanding employer involvement to increase the number of quality work-based learning opportunities and ensure the curricula reflects needed job skills. This plan includes reimagined, quality career services for every SUNY college and university to provide career advising and employer partnerships that align with student aspirations and employer needs. It will also expand SUNY’s quality online offerings – with a focus on employer-valued career credential programs.

Governor Hochul will also make it a priority to ensure the SUNY system is more equitable, lifting up students of all backgrounds.

To become a national leader in equity, SUNY will:

  • Identify and remove obstacles that hold students back: SUNY’s student population is relatively diverse, coming close to reflecting the state’s diversity, but underserved students still tend to lag behind when it comes to graduating on-time. To become a more equitable system, SUNY will develop comprehensive efforts to close recruitment, retention, completion, and job placement gaps, becoming a more equitable system overall;
  • Funding Minority Serving Institutions: SUNY will focus on further funding its three existing Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) and helping five additional campuses become MSIs by 2025, including at least one four-year institution. To support the goal of eight total MSIs by 2025, schools should receive funding toward evidence-based practices in faculty recruitment, staff recruitment and student support programs that drive improvements and expand socio-economic and racial diversity in enrollment, completion and career earnings; and
  • Become a leader in adult learning opportunities: Many adults who either did not attend or finish college or have low median earnings based on their job sector could benefit from additional education. Governor Hochul’s plans to expand access for part-time students to TAP, provide tuition-free workforce credentials in community colleges in high-demand fields, and awarding prior learning credit across SUNY and CUNY will help SUNY more effectively serve the needs of adult learners. SUNY will prioritize recruitment and educational programs for adults seeking post-secondary education, conducting surveys to identify barriers for adult learners and then finding ways to remove those barriers.

As an immediate next step to achieve these goals, Governor Hochul will work with SUNY, its individual institutions, and key stakeholders to develop a detailed implementation plan over the course of 2022. At the heart of Governor Hochul’s vision is a belief that one of SUNY’s major strengths is its portfolio of institutions across the system, and the North Star of the implementation plan will be helping each school be the best version of itself.

This plan will require leaning into the strengths of every part of SUNY: its doctoral-granting institutions, comprehensive colleges, technology colleges, and community colleges.

Photo of Stony Brook University campus courtesy of SUNY.

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