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Online Degrees are Working to Bolster the Workforce in New York’s High Needs Careers

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In today’s economy, education often sets applicants apart from much of the competition in the job market. According to a 2010 report by The College Board, the unemployment rate is 2 times higher for those without any college experience versus those with a bachelor’s degree. The benefits for a higher education are numerous – from higher earnings and higher rates of civic engagement to even healthier lifestyles.

But, many experts agree – structured, face-to-face learning environments don’t always “work” for the 38% of college students that are over the age of 25 and online education is often a viable solution for those older students that typically have more responsibilities in their everyday life like families or employment.

Last week, Chancellor Zimpher kept strong the opportunities of access and affordability with the announcement of the expansion of Open SUNY+ programs. Open SUNY + programs are degrees and certificates with an additional layer of supports for students and faculty, creating unique online learning experiences unlike any that exist today. An additional 56 degree programs and certificates from 17 campuses were added, bringing the total degree programs and campuses to 64 and 19, respectively.

For those over the age of 25 and the 6.9 million (or 56% of) New Yorkers that do not have a college degree, online courses and degrees are opportunities to earn a better position and/or higher pay, be better qualified in the job market, or change fields altogether.

From the past into the future

SUNY has long been at the forefront of online education. In the last 20 years, SUNY online education has increased exponentially, growing from a few online classes to more than 400 online degree programs (including more than 150 that are fully online) and 12,000 course sections. Unveiled in early 2014, Open SUNY opened the door to world-class online-enabled learning opportunities by including all online courses, certificates, and degree programs in SUNY, as well as access to high quality free or low-cost textbooks and other learning resources.

The newly designated Open SUNY+ programs aren’t just in any old field of study – they are targeted to meet high-demand careers identified in New York State, including business, health care, information technology, law and criminal justice, education, and other specialized fields. According to employment prospects by the New York State Department of Labor, over the next ten years, there will be an annual average of 17,500 jobs in business and financial operations, 7,700 jobs in computer and mathematical operations, and 20,000 jobs in education, training and library occupations.

Open SUNY also works for the average student trying to graduate early and reduce the time it takes to earn their degree. Through the Open SUNY Navigator, one can easily find the course or two they can take online to successfully complete their degree early.

To enrich the student experience, Open SUNY+ students also have access to services designed to increase their chance of successfully completing an online degree, foster meaningful connections to the college, and address their unique needs.  These services include:

  • 24/7 HelpDesk for technical questions, so if a student has issues with their course at 2 a.m., someone is there to help;
  • Online academic tutoring day and night to support their non-traditional schedules;
  • A personal concierge to help connect students to their campus from a distance; and
  • Access to applied learning opportunities that ready students for careers by providing valuable hands-on workforce experience.

These services will benefit the nearly 6,000 students enrolled in these programs SUNY-wide.

Stay tuned – Over the coming weeks, we will be further explore the new programs powered by Open SUNY and how they are preparing students for success in New York’s workforce and the global economy.

For more information about Open SUNY, visit

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    Written by Emily Schwartz

    Emily Schwartz is the Coordinator of Open SUNY Communication and Projects.

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