January 18, 2013

Open SUNY Announced by Chancellor Zimpher at State of the University Address

Empire State College’s SUNY REAL Initiative Highlighted

(SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Jan. 18, 2013) SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher’s third annual State of the University address focused attention on Empire State College’s strengths in open and online learning and the college’s expertise in evaluating learning that takes place outside the traditional classroom by highlighting SUNY REAL, the recognition of experiential and academic learning.

Open SUNY includes 10 new online bachelor’s programs that meet high-need workforce demands, three of which will be piloted in the fall. Open SUNY will leverage online-degree offerings at every SUNY campus, making them available to students systemwide using a common set of online tools, including a financial-aid consortium, so that credits and aid can be received by students across campuses.

“Around the world, online and blended learning and education has increased at an explosive rate and during the last decade, the SUNY system has been a leader in innovation and quality assurance,” said Acting President Meg Benke. “Now, Open SUNY is potentially the greatest expansion of open and online learning in the nation and Chancellor’s Zimpher’s commitment to bringing Open SUNY to every campus in the system is highly commendable.”

Zimpher said Open SUNY enrollment will reach 100,000 students within three years, making it the largest online-education presence of any public institution in the nation.

Benke noted that Empire State College already is a leader in delivering online and blended education and will be a factor in student success as it is defined by the chancellor.

Right now, the college’s Center for Distance Learning enrolls more than 8,000 students, offers 500 online courses and provides 70 percent of the system’s online bachelor’s programs. Many of the college’s students enrolled at learning centers throughout the state also take online courses through CDL.

“We also are helping our students to translate real-world experience – such as military service or time in the workplace – into college credit,” said Zimpher. “Our program, which is under development at Empire State College, is called SUNY REAL. It will meet the learner where he or she is, and through prior-learning assessment by highly qualified faculty experts, will dramatically diminish the need for the repeat courses or costly skills training they already have. It is being designed for scale-up throughout SUNY.”

In the fall of 2012, Lumina Foundation awarded the college $500,000 to initiate SUNY REAL.

Designed to be scalable and to serve all 64 SUNY campuses, SUNY REAL focuses on four key areas:

  • assessment structures to evaluate verifiable, college-level, prior experiential and emergent learning for college credit
  • recruitment and training of faculty and equivalent field experts for assessments
  • transcription of the approved college-level learning
  • ongoing research on its practices to ensure quality and consistency.


Media contact: David Henahan, director of communications

518-587-2100, ext. 2918


518-321-7038 (after 5 p.m. and weekends)