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SUNY, or The State University of New York is a massive educational institution with 64 campuses in New York. They are seeking to expand their reach into the online education field, targeting students with rigorous schedules, those who do not mesh well with traditional brick and mortar institutions, and those who simply seek the convenience and self-driven model of online learning. Open SUNY, which is the title of the newly unveiled online education program, is marketed for the aspiring professional of today who needs to find a way to fit education into their busy lives in an effort for career advancement.
Chancellor Nancy Zimpher spoke for her university in the annual 2014 SUNY State of the University address where she spoke of the principles allowing SUNY to aid New York in facing the issues and challenges of the 21st century. One focus of her address was the emphasis on innovation and technology, values which have allowed the SUNY impressive inroads with SUNY research leading to 59 patents, 218 Invention Disclosures, and $8.8 Million USD in royalties for the year of 2013 alone. It is no surprise that a University that has seen such success in their intellectual property would focus on online education as a way to expand their reach.
Nancy Zimpher cited research that New York would require 1 million new Bachelor Degrees for the workforce by 2025 and highlighted the challenges to providing SUNY’s education system to a wider audience. While this research might come as a surprise to those with a Bachelor’s degree who are looking for work, it is tied in with the growing trend of jobs that in the past only require a high school diploma now requiring post-secondary education.
Zimpher understands the problems that potentially occur with online education, including the tendency for online students to drop out or be unable to finish their courses. She allays these fears by citing the enormous education infrastructure in the form of academic support systems that a large scale education body such as SUNY is able to draw on in order to bring a high quality education system. How does SUNY hope to achieve this lofty goal? The answer is the “size and magnitude” of the project which is highlighted as differentiating it from online university initiatives offered by other institutions. Open SUNY offers a way for students to access the resources of all 64 campuses controlled by the SUNY organization.
The reason for Open SUNY is framed as allowing a greater number of New Yorkers to gain higher education, citing the future as increasingly following the trend of requiring a bachelor degree for jobs that in the past would only require a high school diploma. Zimpher sees online education as the solution in order to ensure that New Yorkers get the education they need. While the debate on whether jobs should require post-secondary education and the advantages that a university has if a degree is seen as essential are heated and contentious, putting the moral aspect of it to the side for a second and understanding the reality of the situation makes it clear that a bachelor’s degree is becoming more and more required for white collar jobs, and that an online education can be the most convenient, or even the only possible way of gaining a post-secondary education when juggling a job, family, and other commitments.
If you would like to see the state of the University address yourself, you can skip to the 40 minute mark where online education is addressed. It is great to see the energy and excitement in Zimpher’s voice as she discusses the expansion of the online program, and it is hard to convey in words just how passionate she is. For more information on the Open SUNY project, you can visit the official website.