SUNY Initiatives Drive Access and Affordability for Underserved Students

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Photos of faculty open houses, Senior Showcase and Posse Scholar Graduation on Friday, May 13, 2022.

Unlocking the doors of opportunity, The State University of New York (SUNY) system is driving educational access initiatives and affordability programs using a combination of state and federal funds. The collection of 64 campuses, including 30 community colleges, is breaking down barriers to ensure that economically disadvantaged and historically marginalized students in New York have opportunities to attain social mobility through education. These efforts are especially pivotal for SUNY’s community college enrollees, 43% of whom are Pell Grant recipients, according to the system’s enrollment data.

Through the U.S. Department of Education (ED), four SUNY campuses — three of which are community colleges — received more than $9 million in grants to develop or expand existing programs that promote student success and improve access to education.

SUNY Westchester Community College (WCC), designated as SUNY’s first Hispanic-Serving Institution, received a Title V Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program grant of $2.9 million. The funding will primarily boost enrollment in WCC’s Viking ROADS program, which provides students with academic advising, access to gap financial aid, a $500 annual textbook voucher, a monthly $50 transportation voucher, and opportunities for certain scholarships.

The program offers personalized support to help students attain an associate degree in three years or less. ED grant funding will also be used to create culturally responsive professional development sessions for faculty and numerous student workshops aimed at improving retention, transfer, and graduation rates of Hispanic and low-income learners at WCC.

“[The grant] builds on a significant body of evidence-based, high impact work already underway on our campus and allows us to significantly expand our Viking ROADS program that has nearly tripled graduation rates for students in the program,” WCC President Belinda Miles said in a press release. “The grant also enables us to implement a new retention and completion initiative, as well as provide significant opportunities in professional development for faculty in addressing the needs of our diverse student body.”

Collectively, Fulton-Montgomery Community College, SUNY Erie Community College, and SUNY Oswego secured approximately $6.3 million in ED’s Title III Strengthening Institutions Program grants.

Efforts include the implementation of peer-to-peer tutoring and financial literacy programs and the expansion of institutional research capacity and data collection capabilities.

In addition, New York lawmakers approved state funding for several initiatives in 2023 that make education at SUNY schools more attainable. Included in this was a $1.72 million expansion of services at 12 high-demand child care centers at SUNY community colleges.

Throughout the 2022-2023 academic year, child care centers at SUNY campuses, open to students, faculty, staff, and some community members, served more than 4,500 children and 795 student-parents. These centers are crucial given that one in five community college students — over half of whom are people of color — have dependent children, according to ED’s National Postsecondary Student Aid Study.

Modeling the success of Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) at City University of New York schools, which led to a significant rise in associate degree completion, the state authorized its expansion to the SUNY system alongside the Accelerate, Complete, and Engage (ACE) program to boost baccalaureate attainment.

Beginning in spring 2024, 13 community colleges and 12 state-operated campuses in the SUNY system are participating in ASAP and ACE, respectively, serving more than 3,750 students.