Stressing the importance the SUNY system is playing in the revitalization of the state's economy, Chancellor Nancy Zimpher reminded workforce development policymakers and practitioners from throughout the state there is a SUNY campus within 30 miles of each of them.
Zimpher spoke Wednesday at a conference in Albany of the New York Association of Training and Employment Professionals, a not-for-profit organization that serves the workforce development community throughout the state, and New York State Department of Labor Workforce New York, touting the state's public higher education system's potential in regional economic development and taking questions from workforce representatives.
"In your community, you have libraries, sports arenas and arts museums, churches, elementary and secondary schools and, by the way, within 30 miles of every one of you, a SUNY campus. And we are anchor capital. We are sticky capital," the chancellor said of SUNY campuses. "The good news is that the State University of New York has no plans to move our corporate headquarters to New Jersey. We will stay here in service to this great state."
Zimpher took the opportunity to reiterate the six "big ideas" of her Power of SUNY plan and the governor's NYSUNY 2020 incentive that would grant SUNY's four research institutions up to $35 million each, as ways the higher education system can enhance the "health" of New York communities.
"What I learned is the power of connection our campuses have to their communities and to the workforce challenges that you face every day," Zimpher said. "SUNY could present itself to New York as 'the' catalytic engine — sometimes I'm a little more humble and I say 'a' catalytic engine, but I'm amongst friends — so, catalytic engine for the economic revitalization of this state and its enhanced quality of life."
After her presentation, a SUNY Fredonia delegate raised concerns about the affordability of public higher education under a rational tuition plan, which would increase tuition at a given school on an incremental, predictable basis.
The chancellor pointed to a bill in the Legislature that would give students an "affordable, fair, predictable and responsible" tuition in the wake of the large tuition increases SUNY universities have had after going prolonged periods without one.
"Once before, we collected the tuition and gave it to the state so that they could appropriate it to us, and they kept all but 10 percent," said Zimpher. "That can't happen. That money wasn't collected to close the state coffer gaps. It was collected to serve the students."
Zimpher's appearance at the conference comes just more than a week after Gov. Andrew Cuomo's unveiling of the NYSUNY 2020 plan, which could likely be a game-changer in the debate over how much autonomy should be given SUNY universities over their financial matters. The chancellor has shown repeated support in the past for the rational tuition plan and the ability of SUNY schools to independently engage in public-private partnerships, which she argues could be an economic generator for the state.