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SUNY will shift funding to top-performing schools

Marie Cusick
SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher delivering her second annual State of the University address in Albany.

On the heels of the Governor's State of the State address last week, SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher delivered her own speech on the state of higher education Monday.

Zimpher repeated her calls for the SUNY system to be an economic driver for the state.

She added that SUNY will adjust its budgetary process, in order to funnel more money to top-performing schools.

"Resources are not inexhaustible," says Zimpher. "In fact, SUNY's budget has been cut by $1.4 billion over the past four years, so it is absolutely critical that we use our resources to achieve the results we want."

Performance-based funding

By the start of the 2013-2014 school year, Zimpher says campuses will receive performance-based allocations of money.

"We might for instance … take five percent of the overall SUNY budget and rather than allocate it directly to the campuses, instead allocate it to the campuses based on indicators like graduation rates, or a diversity index," says Zimpher. "We'll make these decision using the system-wide metrics of the SUNY Report Card."

SUNY first started tracking its own "grades" last spring, and Zimpher promised it will be an annual process.

"We must get down to business," she says, "not just by setting goals, but by measuring them and by holding ourselves accountable for meeting them."

She also hailed the passage of the NY SUNY 2020 legislation last spring, which will limit tuition increases over the next five years.

Building a better system

Throughout her speech, Zimpher repeatedly called for the 64 campuses to become more integrated. She wants them to embrace a word that can't be found in the dictionary: systemness.

"We actually have made up this word," Zimpher says. "But if Stephen Colbert can do it with 'truthiness', so can we."

She added that one of the biggest obstacles to improving that system is SUNY's patchwork of Information Technology resources.

"Over the last few decades the devolution of our system has led to every campus having the freedom to choose its own path for IT resources," says Zimpher. "The result is a hodgepodge network across the SUNY system that can barley communicate and [that] adds huge costs to every system-wide effort we make in IT."

Zimpher says the school will launch Open SUNY, an online distance learning program by the Fall of 2013.

She also mentioned efforts to improve the ease of transferring credits and eliminating the need for remediation classes for incoming students within the decade.

WMHT/Capital Region reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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