State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher delivers the...

State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher delivers the State of the University address on Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, in Albany, N.Y. Credit: AP / Mike Groll

State University of New York Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher announced $18 million in grants Monday designed to boost student retention and completion rates at the public system’s three Long Island campuses and 19 others statewide.

Stony Brook University, Farmingdale State College and the College at Old Westbury will share $3.5 million for various initiatives aimed at keeping students on track to graduate sooner.

“College competition isn’t just that degree framed on the wall but what that degree means,” Zimpher said in her annual State of the University Address in Albany. “More than ever, they must stand for skills learned and knowledge acquired.”

With nearly 460,000 enrolled undergraduate and graduate students, the 64-campus SUNY system is among the largest in the nation. Zimpher pledged to increase the number of degrees from 93,000 to 150,000 by the year 2020.

In her sixth address as chancellor, Zimpher called for an extension of NYSUNY 2020, which allows for capped tuition increases, and talked about making cultural inclusion a top priority with the designation of chief diversity officers on each campus. Zimpher also spoke about the increased use of student data to identify at-risk students earlier so educators can intervene to help them academically and socially.

She also announced a partnership with the Business Council of New York to provide exclusive internships to SUNY students and graduates. She reiterated her campaign “Stand with SUNY,” which calls for more base funding at the individual campuses in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s state budget proposal, expected to be released Wednesday.

SUNY Board of Trustees in November sent a $8.7 billion budget request for the 2016-17 academic year to Cuomo and the state legislature. It includes $1.5 billion to support its capital plans for educational facilities, community colleges, residence halls and hospitals; $164 million in direct state tax support for base costs; and $109 million in direct state tax investment for all SUNY institutions.

SUNY’s board has also called for raising the investment and performance fund — from where the retention and competition grants are paid out — from $18 million to $50 million.

Lou Reinisch, dean of arts and sciences at Farmingdale State College, says the $1.3 million for his school will launch a multifaceted approach aimed at retention called “Students First & Foremost” in the next few weeks.

“There’s no silver bullet to keeping students,” Reinisch said.

At Farmingdale, where many of the students commute, jobs and family obligations get in the way of their courses, he said.

The school has a freshman retention rate of 81 percent and a six-year graduation rate of 48 percent.

With more faculty mentoring, flexible and online course schedules, senior-year advising and 24/7 online tutoring, Reinisch said “I’m sure it will work.”

The grant money, paid over five years, will be matched by the college’s institutional funds allowing him to hire tutors and advisers for students, he said.

Stony Brook University will receive $1.75 million to increase by 60 percent the four-year graduation rate for entering freshman by 2020. The College at Old Westbury will receive $500,000 to support a digital campus, SUNY officials said.

“Chancellor Zimpher outlined several meaningful initiatives and programs that will have a positive impact on Stony Brook University students, and we are grateful for her vision and fortitude,” said Stony Brook University president Samuel L. Stanley Jr.

Latest videos

DON'T MISS THIS LIMITED-TIME OFFER1 5 months for only $1Save on Unlimited Digital Access