WXXI Local Stories
Fri December 3, 2010
SUNY Chancellor Visits Rochester
By Zack Seward
Rochester, NY – SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher was in Rochester Friday to help announce a regional economic summit set for May. But the head of the state university system also took the opportunity to make a pitch to lawmakers.
Zimpher announced on Friday that she'll be a panelist at this spring's Eyes on the Future 2011.
One of the themes of that regional economic summit is how universities can lead economic revitalization.
For the 64-campus SUNY system to rev up its economic impact, Zimpher unveiled a new strategic plan. It's called "The Power of SUNY."
Zimpher said one of the goals of the plan is to position SUNY as "an economic engine for the state of New York."
According to Zimpher, the SUNY system already employs 88,000 and generates $27.5 billion statewide.
In the Rochester area alone, SUNY employs 6,577 across five campuses.
But to grow as an economic powerhouse, Zimpher says Albany lawmakers need to grant SUNY "regulatory relief."
"It is about giving SUNY the flexibility to be this economic engine," said Zimpher. "And that requires changes in policy that are years old -- I should say decades old -- that aren't going to work in the future."
Zimpher says business incubators are one example of where SUNY could lead. But regulatory barriers make it hard for the system to establish industry partnerships.
"Stepping out of our box and working with federal labs and business and industry. That's the name of the game," Zimpher told WXXI. "And so we don't want any regulatory barriers. We got to be able to move around."
SUNY's "Empowerment Plan," which was floated in Albany this summer would have offered some relief, but lawmakers failed to act.
Zimpher says SUNY has seen its state support drop by 30% over the last three years. Students at nearby SUNY Geneseo recently protested program cuts.
Zimpher says Geneseo is not the only SUNY campus that's been forced to make "painful" decisions.
"That is one of the largest cuts over the shortest amount of time that any higher education institution could experience," said Zimpher. "The consequence of that is real. We are having to make programatic adjustments."
Zimpher will continue her pitch to lawmakers soon.
She's delivering a State of the University address next month.
Eyes on the Future 2011 will be held at Saint John Fisher College on Friday, May 20, 2011.