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New York City

SUNY: Nation’s Largest University Expands
An Interview with Chancellor Robert King

By Marylena Mantas

The State University of New York is growing! Seeking to attract more students from the Metropolitan area to its 64 campuses, the State University of New York (SUNY) recently opened a new Metropolitan Recruitment Center in midtown Manhattan. The center hopes to better disseminate information about SUNY to high school students, their parents and guidance counselors and to better assist them with the college application process.

“The New York City metropolitan area is very important to SUNY; we welcome New York City high school students on our campuses,” said SUNY Chancellor Robert King.

The Chancellor cited diversity as one of the most important elements brought to SUNY by students from the metropolitan area, who constitute approximately 25 percent of the university’s applicants each year.

“They and the diversity they bring to the university enhance the environment on our campuses,” said King.

The expansion of facilities is one of many general increases that are taking place throughout SUNY these days. In the past five years enrollment has been experiencing a similar trend. In 2001 enrollment stood at 383,153 students, up 2.3 percent since the fall of 2000. Full-time undergraduate enrollment was the highest in the university’s history—235, 548—up 4.4 per cent from the fall of 2000. Selectivity was also on the rise in 2001 with 40 percent of the incoming class having scored above 1,200 on the SAT and a grade point average above 90 percent.

“The combination of our growing reputation and focused recruitment efforts contributed to significant enrollment growth for the fifth consecutive year,” said King during his annual report to the Board of Trustees delivered at Hudson Valley Community College recently. “The record number of students choosing the State University speaks not only to the University’s capacity to provide a superb education, but also to the quality of our campuses, thanks to the $2 billion investment in our building and infrastructure that is being made under the leadership of Governor Pataki. In short, we are becoming the institution of choice for New York State’s college-going population, to an extent unequalled in our history.”

Raising the status of SUNY has been one of King’s main goals, since December of 1999 when he assumed his position as Chancellor. “The University is increasing its stature in terms of how the world views us as a research institution,” said King, citing as some of the measurements of success the increasing number of patents generated; Stony Brook’s admittance in the Association of American Universities; and a recent pledge of $100 million made by IBM to support the Center for Excellence in Nanoelectronics at the University at Albany.

“We have engineered a first rate, best in class public university,” said King when questioned to describe the present state of SUNY, which stands as the nation’s largest comprehensive system of higher education.

In 2001, SUNY came a step closer to meeting the Chancellor’s goal of attracting $5 billion in new resources for the University over the course of five years.

“I am pleased to report that funding for sponsored activity, including research, climbed to almost $594 million last year—almost $100 million more than we had just two years ago,” said King, who has considered it “important to change the basic culture of the university as it pertains to fundraising…we have not had a long history of soliciting philanthropic support.”

The university, however, can boast of having a longstanding relationship with its Russian counterparts. The 27-year relationship led to the recent establishment of a unique exchange program that allows SUNY students to earn a joint degree from their home institution and Moscow State University.

Arrangements are already underway to establish a similar partnership with the Istanbul Technical University in Turkey.

“We view Turkey as an important country strategically to the US,” said King. “We found the Turks very willing and amenable to this program.”

The faculty participating in the joint degree programs, which provides students with an option to make use of distance learning, or to study in Turkey and Moscow for a certain period of time, have been collaborating to create a joint curriculum that will meet the program’s needs.

As King noted, among other things, the joint program seeks to prepare a more international workforce and provide SUNY students with an advantage when they enter the job market.

“Think of the advantage our graduates will have when they approach a prospective employer with a resume demonstrating degrees earned from both SUNY and Moscow State or Istanbul Technical University,” said King.

Students can earn joint degrees in the following disciplines: Business Administration, Economics, Language, Medicine, Computer Science, Public Administration and Teaching English as a Foreign Language.

“We also recognize that as large and comprehensive as we are, we can extend our effectiveness by collaborating with other entities that offer important additions to our capacities,” said King. “Thus, we continue to create and enhance key strategic partnerships throughout the state and around the world.”


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