ALBANY - The State University of New York, the nation's largest public university system, has a new roadmap for the future that aims to encourage entrepreneurship that officials say would create jobs and stem an exodus of young New Yorkers.
Chancellor Nancy Zimpher said Tuesday the strategic plan, 10 months in the making, will enable SUNY to help drive New York's economy and create jobs through innovation. She called for an "entrepreneur mindset" and "cradle to career" programs that would connect the 64 campuses to bring new ideas to market.
The plan also calls for revamping teacher education and making it easier for community college students to transfer to SUNY schools.
But how much will the "Power of SUNY" strategic plan cost, when the state's lingering fiscal crisis has prompted two years of cuts to SUNY aid?
"We have the capacity already," Zimpher said in an interview. "Connecting the dots and making the systemwide effort is not, in itself, expensive. It's a different way of doing business."
She said, however, that greater investment by government and through philanthropists would speed her promised results of jobs and other improvements for New York's economy. Accountability measures will show if the benefits are being realized.
SUNY "will charge each of the campus presidents with a development plan that aligns with the strategic plan of 'The Power of SUNY,'" she said. "Then we'll actually hold that president accountable for self-identified progress."
Among the strategic plan's proposals are:
- SUNY StartUP, which will invite local entrepreneurs to campuses to advise and mentor students and professors. Entrepreneurship courses will be added to "create a cadre of idea generators and job creators."
- SUNY-INC, which stands for Incent New Companies. It would create a link to fast-track ideas to market, starting with a local research team that would funnel discoveries to successive experts with "the end result: new companies, new jobs, and the growth of a new economy."
- Revamping teacher education. This will include a SUNY Urban-Rural Teacher Corps to provide "real-world experience" to prospective teachers, the same way medical students get clinical experience.
- Establishing agreements to allow SUNY community college students to more easily transfer credits to four-year colleges.
- Turning New York into a hub of the "best thinking in health care" and a center for health care jobs.
- OPEN SUNY, a program to make the system the most extensive distance-learning university in the nation.
SUNY Board of Trustees Chairman Carl Hayden said Zimpher delivered a plan that "bears the imprint of the entire SUNY family."
Past efforts to adapt SUNY to changing times were hampered in recent decades by political and fiscal conflicts, both within SUNY and in state government.
"It will work because the people it affects most are the people who helped to make it possible," said Hayden, the former state Board of Regents chancellor.
Raymond Cross, president of Morrisville State College and part of the planning, called it "bold, exciting, and real."
"It calls for action, requires commitment and will aggressively move SUNY and all of New York forward," Cross said.
Zimpher is scheduled to present the plan in Binghamton and Utica on Thursday; Syracuse on Friday; Westchester County on April 22; Long Island on April 23; Rochester on April 27; and Buffalo on April 28.