SUNY degree completion initiative shows success

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State University of New York Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher today announced that degree completion by students throughout the university system has increased by three percent, from 93,000 to nearly 96,000, since the launch of SUNY’s Completion Agenda last year.

SUNY is encouraging prospective and current students, parents, alumni, and friends to learn more about what the system and its individual campuses are doing to support completion through a #SUNYCompletes hashtag campaign and online, at http://www.suny.edu/completion/.

“At a time when less than half of all New Yorkers hold a college degree and more than 70 percent of jobs in our state will soon require one, SUNY is dedicated to ensuring that more of our students have the support they need to complete a degree on time and with less debt,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. “Whether it’s reaching out to former students and inviting them back, providing new tools to better support current students, or partnering with area colleges on seamless transfer, SUNY presidents, faculty, and staff have embraced the challenge of increasing completion, and we are collectively moving the dial.”

SUNY Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Alexander N. Cartwright said the university system expects increasing completions as evidence-based programs and initiatives are further scaled up within SUNY and more people are made aware of the degree programs, micro credentials, and support systems available at campuses. 

“As we have implemented our completion agenda, one theme we see again and again is that there are many New Yorkers who want to earn a college degree or new credential but don’t know where to start,” said Provost Cartwright. “We are taking an innovative approach to strategic enrollment management that will meet students where they are by providing multiple entry points and pathways for students to access all that SUNY has to offer, including new ways to find the right program and campus, more micro-credentials, more online offerings, and new degree programs in high-need areas.”

Chancellor Zimpher first announced the university system’s Completion Agenda in her 2015 State of the University Address, setting an ambitious goal of awarding 150,000 degrees per year. SUNY continues to identify programs and initiatives that have resulted in student success at one or more of its 64 campuses and is bringing them to scale across the university system, including:

·        Finish in 4: The University at Buffalo launched Finish in 4 in 2012, with 63 percent of the first enrollees graduating this semester, far exceeding the national average of 34 percent for public institutions. Finish in 4 has been replicated by colleges and universities throughout SUNY, including SUNY Buffalo State CollegeSUNY Fredonia, and SUNY Potsdam, with nearly a dozen others in the planning stages. In addition, the SUNY Oswego Guarantee has provided students a completion promise since 1998 and a Return on Investment enhancement since 2013.

·        Re-enroll To Complete: Based on the success of a 17-campus pilot program led by SUNY Plattsburgh, SUNY Smart Track Re-Enroll to Complete is designed to reach recently withdrawn student loan borrowers to get them back to campus to complete their degree, and avoid the greatest known predictor of student loan default – early separation from college. Beginning in 2017, 29 SUNY campuses will participate. A similar program at SUNY College at Brockport resulted in more than half of the students contacted returning to college.

·        DegreeWorks: SUNY is the first university system in the country to provide students a customized version of Degree Works, a web-based, auditing software that allows them to quickly chart their progress toward completing degree requirements, and how their status may vary depending on the institution or degree program they enroll in. SUNY campuses saw 2.8 million logins by 180,000 unique users in the system’s first year of offering DegreeWorks.

·        Micro Credentials: Following the broad success of Stony Brook University’s badging initiative and growing demand by students in New York and nationally for micro credentials, SUNY formed a system-wide credentialing task force to ensure that micro credentials across SUNY are meaningful, high-quality, and faculty-approved.

·        Applied Learning: Applied learning opportunities have proven to increase student engagement and success during college, and result in a higher rate of job placement following graduation. At SUNY College of Optometry, where nearly all curricula includes an applied learning component, the college has a nearly 100 percent completion rate. To support its goal of providing every student access to an applied learning opportunity, SUNY will be launching a pilot program this semester to bring its offerings to scale while also tailoring them to workforce trends in New York and nationally.

·        Achieving the Dream: Nearly half of all students seeking higher education choose a community college, and fewer than half of those students complete a degree. Seven SUNY community colleges have joined Achieving the Dream, a national network of higher education institutions, coaches and advisors, state policy teams, investors and partners that aims to help more than 4 million community college students complete their degree. Member institutions include: Broome, Dutchess, Mohawk, Onondaga, Schenectady, Suffolk, and Westchester Community Colleges.

·        Open Education Resources (OER): The use of OER at colleges and universities across the country is helping to offset costs for students. These include resources available at little or no cost that can be used for teaching, learning, or research. Since they were first used within SUNY at Tompkins Cortland Community College, approximately $1.4 million has been invested in OER at more than 20 campuses, facilitating the development of online courses, instructional videos, research, and open textbooks published by SUNY faculty and shared system-wide.

·        Developmental Math Pathways: SUNY has partnered with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching at Stanford University to offer Carnegie’s Math Pathways throughout the university system. The Pathways include Quantway and Statway, innovative pedagogical approaches to teaching developmental mathematics that boast a national student success rate that is double the average of traditional remedial classes. This year, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and SUNY, 12 SUNY colleges are offering Quantway.

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