In her annual address to the State University of New York educational system, Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson mapped out her plans to increase the affordability, accesibility and quality of state high education.
On Jan. 31, Johnson delivered her second State of the University System (SOTUS) address in the Albany Capital Center. Her speech highlighted upon the need for diversity, addressed the economic wage gap for those seeking higher education and expanding online learning for students in and out of state.
“College education is no longer a ‘nice to have’— it is a ‘must have,” Johnson said.
The Chancellor pointed out the benefits of obtaining a degree, not just for individuals, but for the state and country as a whole. According to a report from College Board, a not-for-profit organization, American citizens without any college education are twice as likely to be unemployed, three times more likely to live in poverty have poorer health and are less likely to vote.
The agenda that Johnson wants to push going forward is a stark contrast to the plans of the current White House Administration is entertaining.
“We all know that something is wrong with the American dream, when income inequality is widening, social mobility is lagging and our federal government is openly attacking those immigrants who believe in that dream so completely that they are willing to risk everything for it,” Johnson said.
“The Chancellor’s speech had a very inspiring and uplifting message,” said Niza Cardona, director of student accounts who attended the SOTUS on behalf of the Office of Veteran and Military Services of New Paltz. “I’ve been with SUNY for 21 years and a lot of what she is trying to do hits home because I’ve already seen the changes. I was excited to hear about many of the new initiatives that will enhance services for our students.”
The Chancellor wants to diversify the SUNY pool of workers by the year 2030 by retaining and recruiting professors of minority backgrounds who are just beginning their careers through the program PRODI-G, which stands for Promoting Recruitment, Opportunity, Diversity, Inclusionand Growth. She is also calling for more energy sustainability on SUNY campuses.
“Because SUNY operates 40 percent of the buildings owned by New York State, and as such, we are a key part of the Governor’s Green New Deal, to make the state’s energy 100 percent carbon-free by 2040,” Johnson said.
SUNY New Paltz has been commended by the SUNY system for the solar energy and battery storage system installed back in April on the roofs of the Elting Gymnasium and the Sojourner Truth Library.
In addition to seeking out greener alternatives, Johnson wishes to see SUNY ahead of the game in regards to online education. A task force has been opened up to redesign the state colleges online platform to grant better access to working students, active military personnel and those who have family obligations that may limit the ability to do on-site learning.
“Just 6 percent of SUNY students are learning exclusively online,” Johnson said. “Despite our technologically sophisticated economy, New York trails 10 other states in exclusive online learning enrollment. I mean come on, we’re New York! We should be number one!”
Cardona understands the desire SUNY has to provide a stronger online presence.
“The push is driven by the needs and wants of our students,” Cardona said. “More and more people are looking for the flexibility offered by online classes.”
Those interested in viewing a recording of the SOTUS or learning about other SUNY initiatives can visit https://www.suny.edu/sotus/.