American Higher Education has always been an anchor of our nation’s success, and it can be argued that – as our nation was founded on equality for all – higher education as an institution has tried to maintain access and affordability for all Americans willing to enroll.
SUNY was officially established as a system in 1948, making New York the final of the then-48 states to create a university system. The system initially represented a consolidation of 29 unaffiliated institutions that shared a common goal: To serve New York State. Since 1948, SUNY has grown to include 64 individual colleges and universities that were either formerly independent institutions or directly founded by the State University of New York.
When compared to other higher education systems, SUNY schools offer some of the lowest-cost tuition per degree (comparison). This is an achievement given SUNY’s size — nearly a half-million students and over 88,000 faculty members among 64 campuses — and diversity — community colleges, technical colleges, state colleges, and university centers. SUNY strives to continue lowering overhead costs through programs like Shared Services, which will have redirected $100 million from administrative costs, like elevator contracts and printing services, to our students’ academics by the end of 2014.
Our current educational environment requires that each of SUNY’s institutions receive year-round and comprehensive support. No longer is class taught in a simple classroom and earning a college degree perceived as a single choice among many. Faculty conduct year-round research around the globe and SUNY is truly impacting the lives of New Yorkers on a scale that perhaps could not have been imagined in 1948.
Today, SUNY continues to make remarkable progress to limit the burden of rising tuition on its hundreds of thousands of students. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Education teamed up with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to introduce “Know Before You Owe”, a financial aid shopping sheet that colleges and universities could use to help students better understand the amount of grants and loans that they qualify for. SUNY was the first and largest system to commit to use the shopping sheet, which began in 2013 under the SUNY Smart Track program.
The Smart Track program combines 5 tools and services to meet student financial service needs:
- New SUNY Award Letter to show financial aid offerings at a campus while also displaying campus-specific graduation rates, default rates, and the median student loan debt of the campus’ students.
- Student Loan Service Center Expansion to serve all SUNY campuses and provide additional services to support Smart Track.
- Early Engagement of loan default risk students, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, by campus personnel to help manage finances.
- Smart Track Online Resources, a central online hub providing financial aid resources for borrowers.
- Net Price Calculator, enabling prospective students to calculate the net costs of the attendance at any SUNY school by providing tuition, room and board costs, and fees for all campuses.
Combined with taxpayer support, state and federal grant programs (TAP, Pell) help alleviate the costs of college for thousands of undergraduate students. These programs, in concert with SUNY’s ongoing work to promote financial awareness through SUNY Smart Track and rally lawmakers to continue supporting the System, uphold the 1948 mission: To serve New York State.
Brian Hutzley is the Vice Chancellor for Financial Services & Chief Financial Officer at SUNY System Administration.