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SUNY chancellor: schools will perform well under Obama's proposed ranking system

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

The head of the State University of New York welcomes the competition component of President Barack Obama's new education plan, intended to make a college education more affordable.

The president's plan would rank colleges and universities according to a number of factors, including student debt and graduation rates. It would then tie that ranking to federal student aid. SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher says the proposal will also encourage innovation and take measures to reduce student debt.

"These are agendas that align beautifully with our own transfer policies, and tuition policies," Zimpher said. "We're doing this massive online operation that we're announcing in January. So we felt at home in our own skin, and we felt the president was talking to us and saying to the nation, I don't want to stretch this too much, but let's do what SUNY's doing."

Credit Ellen Abbott/WRVO
SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher poses with SUNY Upstate Medical University's David Smith while at the New York State Fair.

Zimpher says she expects SUNY's 64 campuses to come out as affordable quality options for students, and doesn't think this kind of competition will fracture the SUNY system.

"Take our technical colleges and compare their outcomes with technical colleges across the country," Zimpher said. "Take our doctoral institutions and compare them with others in the country. We should stand for that. We should be competitive and we should be high quality. So I don't see this as pitting one SUNY campus against another as much as I see us standing for a national metric that we can meet."

Zimpher says the key to success is making sure states use the right data and metrics to create measured outcomes. As far as the other two prongs of the president's proposal, innovation and measures to reduce student debt, Zimpher also says SUNY is already making progress on those fronts.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.