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State of University highlights: Affordability, college completion and new foundation

WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher delivered her final State of the University Address Monday in Albany.  WBFO's Senior Reporter Eileen Buckley says she highlighted progress made by SUNY in the past decade. 

“Simply no one else does what SUNY can do,” Zimpher said. “No one else matches our reach or strength or potential to educate more people and to educate them better.”

Zimpher praised the SUNY system. She said it is an economic engine, but it’s also a system for inclusion, diversity and equity. She highlighted college access and degree competition such as the Finish in Four program on six campuses, including the University at Buffalo.

“At the University at Buffalo’s first cohort we graduated at a rate 26 percent above the national average, so dozens more of our campuses are now onboard,” explained Zimpher.

Zimpher highlighted the issue of college affordability, noting that almost half of all SUNY students are graduating debt-free. She said Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposed free tuition plan for state colleges and universities in New York for eligible middle and low income families, could improve the chance for many more students to go to college.

"That act alone will move the dial on access. For young people who have  written college off because they assume they couldn’t afford it, they’ll hear about this and think—maybe college isn’t out of my reach,” stated Zimpher.

Zimpher also announced the creation of the SUNY Impact Foundation. For the first time in SUNY history, it would actively seek private sector investment and public-private partnerships to fund programs in order to maintain SUNY's affordability. 

“So in the spirit of 'finding a problem, solving a problem,' 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 get scale,” announced Zimpher. “Our promise to investors: Send your money to the SUNY Impact Foundation and we will allocate it to campuses who we know can move the dial.”

Zimpher will be stepping down from her post as chancellor this June.

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