As he completed his address outlining the state of the State University of New York system, Chancellor John King imagined what the coming decades will bring for the 75-year-old system.
"SUNY will be in its next 75 years, as it is now, a home and a refuge," King said. "I know there’s a place at SUNY for everyone."
The leader of New York’s 64-campus public higher education system on Wednesday said SUNY is prepared to handle a range of challenges it currently faces, from creating a more inclusive environment and boosting enrollment.
King outlined four pillars as goals for SUNY: student success, diversity, equity and inclusion, research and scholarship, and economic development and upward mobility.
Broadly, King wants the SUNY system to serve as a research hub, a path to a meaningful career for students from a variety of backgrounds as well as an engine for high-tech development.
But there are questions now over whether SUNY’s campuses will serve as a temporary refuge for migrants who have arrived in New York over the last several weeks. King says SUNY is prepared to help.
"The governor asked all state agencies to identify how we can help the humanitarian crisis," he told reporters after his speech. "No decisions have been made, but we’re committed at SUNY to help New York City and the state navigate this difficult moment."
There are also questions over SUNY’s enrollment — a problem made worse in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s an issue Gov. Kathy Hochul says she wants to address.
"We’ve got to pull together and talk about how we can increase our enrollment — let people know the value of this," Hochul said.
King agrees — outlining programs on Wednesday meant to attract more students, including automatic enrollment in community colleges, mental health services programs as well as internship and job placement programs.
One goal is to have every student complete a paid internship prior to earning their degree.
"What we’ve got to do is to make the case for the long-term investment," King said. "The evidence is over your lifetime if you have a college degree, you’ll earn a million more dollars. So we’ve got to keep reminding folks that a college education is an investment in their long-term economic well being."
State lawmakers and Hochul also agreed to boost operating aid to SUNY by $178 million to more than $1.3 billion as part of the budget. The added funding avoided a proposed tuition increase for in-state students.
"This really addresses what the governor had hoped to achieve with her proposed tuition increase, it allows us to make important investments in SUNY," he said. "We look forward to continue to work with the governor and the Legislature to invest in the success of our institutions."