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SUNY issues report card

May 23, 2011
In an effort to create greater transparency for the State University of New York, Chancellor Nancy Zimpher has released the first ever "SUNY report card" as a baseline to measure future improvements.

"We are asking New Yorkers to hold us accountable," the chancellor said. "We want the public to know where we succeed and where we may fall short. It's a level of accountability that many would consider a gamble, but the risks are outweighed by the opportunity to present all New Yorkers with SUNY's advancement and our impact on the economic revitalization of New York State."

The report card examines student diversity and access to higher education, SUNY's impact on New York's economy, "energy smart" policies and reducing energy consumption along with more than 90 other performance measures.

While the SUNY report card does not specify the areas SUNY would like to improve upon, the public university system developed the report card as "a starting point — establishing a baseline — to provide the public with a comprehensive look at the status of SUNY's goals and initiatives across a broad spectrum of critical areas," by using data from the 2008-2009 academic year, with some statistics incorporating other academic years as well.

The report card was created to monitor the progress of the implementation of Zimpher's long-term plan for the system and not as an "exercise in self-promotion," SUNY said.

The report card includes some telling statistics about the SUNY system. According to SUNY's statistics, 88 percent of students — regardless of whether they transferred from other schools — received degrees or certificates within the "standard time frame" of four years. Sixty-two percent of "first time, full-time" students graduated with a bachelor's degree whereas 61 percent of transfer students graduated with a bachelor's degree. The report also found that transfer students, who make up one-third of SUNY students, earn more credits before graduating on average than non-transfer students.

Counting applications from "historically underrepresented populations," SUNY administrators found 39,000 applications came from such populations out of the 143,000 total applications received. A racial breakdown of SUNY's students revealed 65 percent are white/non-Hispanic, 9 percent are black/non-Hispanic, 7 percent are Hispanic, 4 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, and 1 percent Native American/Alaskan. Additionally 4 percent of the student population are non-resident aliens and 4 percent are international

SUNY administrators also hope to include future statistics on how many graduates are employed in New York state, the median income of graduates employed in the state, affordability and comparative debt obligation of graduates among other figures.

SUNY's creation of the report card received support and acclaim from lawmakers.

"A better SUNY produces greater opportunities for future graduates. Building a more transparent system of public accountability means we know where improvements are needed and how to improve on best practices," said Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer, D-Mamaroneck, the ranking member of the Senate Education Committee.

Assembly Higher Education Committee Chair Deborah Glick, D-Greenwich Village, called the report card "an excellent first step in the promise of transparency" that "will be a wonderful tool to measure success."

Senate Higher Education Chair Kenneth LaValle, R-Port Jefferson, also approved of the SUNY achievement. "Taxpayers and students alike have a right to know about and track performance so that areas for improvement can be targeted and the public can make informed choices," LaValle said.

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