SUNY Chancellor Bets Big on Technology

The State University of New York is, in theory, a system of 64 college and university campuses. But it has often been accused of operating like a big group of warring fiefdoms competing for money and students, with no interest in cooperating with one another.

Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher has been trying to unify the system since she took office, in 2009, with measures that have a lot to do with how the colleges receive and spend their money. She laid out her latest proposals to advance that ideal in her state-of-the-university speech, delivered on Tuesday morning.

Starting in 2014, she said, all of the system’s colleges will use the same data systems in order to better compare their academic outcomes and to award money to campuses that are improving their performance.

All of the colleges will also use new technology to track financial aid and student debt. The program is meant to better educate students and parents about how to pay for college and also to warn system officials if a student is at risk of defaulting on his or her loans.

Ms. Zimpher promised that loan defaults by SUNY students would decrease by 5 percent over five years.

SUNY will also seek to expand its online offerings systemwide, eventually extending to 10 bachelor’s-degree programs, Ms. Zimpher said. Online degrees are at the core of plans to offer three-year degrees, she said.

Ms. Zimpher, never one to think small, said the online courses would enroll nearly 100,000 students within three years, making SUNY the “largest public online provider of education in the nation.”

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