Zimpher proposes initiatives at her final SUNY address

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher highlighted two new programs in her last State of the University Address. These programs include the Impact Foundation, which will secure private sector investment, and the SUNY Center for Systems Change, a new data analysis initiative.

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher delivered her final State of the University Address on Monday Jan. 23 and introduced two new initiatives for the SUNY system. 

Zimpher highlighted the accomplishments of SUNY in various areas, from affordability to degree completion. One of the new initiatives she spoke about was the Impact Foundation, a measure created for the purpose of sustaining SUNY’s affordability. 

“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,” Zimpher said. 

This opportunity will allow SUNY to gain funding from foundations and private investors, in the hopes of expanding its affordability and reaching a greater number of students in need. 

President of Student Association senior Michael Baranowski said he believes this initiative will provide increased funding for costs not covered by Gov. Cuomo’s proposed Excelsior Scholarship. 

“There’s still close to $20,000 for someone who is living on campus that the scholarship does not help. So though that is great at opening the door for a lot of people, there’s still a lot of costs that will have to be covered by students,” Baranowski said. “Probably every SUNY school would be happy to have this initiative because it will go back to the students.” 

This initiative comes with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent proposal for free tuition for SUNY and CUNY students. A concern about decreasing costs of attendance has developed, but proposals such as these are difficult to put into effect, according to the Vice President of Student and Campus Life Robert Bonfiglio. 

“SUNY is a big organization with lots of moving parts and it’s hard to get all those parts in alignment for something like this,” he said. “I’m not saying it’s not possible, it’s just difficult.”

Zimpher also announced the creation of the SUNY Center for Systems Change, a data-driven approach with the goal of implementing greater standards and an improved system for education. 

“We have not yet systematically prepared all of our people—our faculty, students and staff who are the lifeblood of our system—to tackle these challenges more effectively,” Zimpher said. “And if we don’t prepare ourselves now, it will only get more difficult as technology races ahead.”

This change comes with the desire to increase the ease of degree acquisition for students and to enable students struggling in the education system to successfully obtain their college degree. 

Zimpher also mentioned the FAFSA Outreach Initiative in her speech, which was created for the purpose of encouraging students and their families to apply for financial aid. One hundred and seventy four million dollars of federal financial aid available for New Yorkers goes unused each year due to the lack of awareness regarding eligibility, according to Zimpher. This outreach program will establish meetings for students and their families to educate them. 

Student Assembly President Marc Cohen said in a phone interview that Zimpher’s work on these initiatives further shows her commitment to bettering the lives of students. 

“Her dedication and devotion to shared government and in involving students in decisions, in giving students a seat at the table was evident throughout her tenure,” Cohen said. 

These will most likely be the final initiatives Zimpher will establish, as she is set to step down from her position as chancellor in June 2017.