Open SUNY Offers New Opportunities

During SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher’s “2014 State of the University Address: Innovation at Scale,” last month, she introduced the Open SUNY program.

This program created eight new online degree programs to go along with making all 12,000 online SUNY courses accessible to every student in the SUNY system. The goal of the program is to “reach the nearly seven million adults in New York with a high school diploma but no college degree,” she said.  Another reason Zimpher gave for starting this initiative was that by at least 2025, 60 percent of jobs will require a bachelor’s degree.

The eight new online degree programs are in the fields of applied science in clinical laboratory technologies, business, management and economics, science, mathematics and technology, tourism management, electrical engineering, nursing, business administration and health services administration.

Provost Philip Mauceri said he hopes Open SUNY attracts and allows people who haven’t had the ability to recieve higher education previous to recieve a degree.

“There is a growing mismatch between the educational attainment that the US workforce currently has and the higher skill levels needed, and this initiative can certainly help address this problem,” Mauceri said. “I also think that Open SUNY will offer students within SUNY and beyond more choices in class and program selections.”

SUNY New Paltz President Donald Christian said Open SUNY was created to help students graduate through the program more quickly.

Christian said New Paltz is increasing its online course offerings and programs by continuing to grow the amount of online courses offered during the January winter session, so students can take classes that might not fit into their schedule during the fall and spring. He also said the School of Business is focusing on developing online classes as part of the MBA program to help students facilitate through the program.

Mauceri said this initiative now puts pressure on the school to make sure they make the right choices about which courses to offer online, so the students will benefit the most. He also said the school is constantly working to help increase the online teaching abilities of its faculty.

Christian said some colleges and universities require their students to take an online course because some corporations make their employees take online courses as a part of continuing their education.  He also said faculty develop new approaches when teaching an online course, which helps them when they go back to teaching a class in person.

“It’s a way of diversifying and changing the way faculty assemble the course and engage students,” Christian said.

“I think this initiative, like others that have been launched, demonstrate a willingness in SUNY to be creative and pro-active in the face of the vast changes reshaping higher education,” Mauceri said.  “It is always best to get ahead of changes and help define the change rather than to be passive and allow change to redefine who we are.”

According to Zimpher’s address, students who participate in Open SUNY will have the support of a student concierge. The concierge is a 24/7 helpdesk that includes tutoring, mentoring, degree planning, advising and financial aid information.

While the school is continuing to grow its online courses program, Mauceri said the students are still focused on in person classes.

“Although our students are interested in hybrid and online courses, their main focus remains on face-to-face courses, and I do not expect that to change dramatically,” Mauceri said.