Posted on Dec 17, 2007

Stephen C. Ainlay, president of Union College

A state commission charged with improving higher education in New York has issued a series of sweeping recommendations designed to make college more affordable for families, spur economic development by investing billions for research in fields like bioscience and engineering, and transform New York into one of the “idea capitals” of the 21st century.

 “As I stated in my convocation address, no institution of higher education today can afford to operate without a clear understanding of need, without a clear sense of educational mission, or without a plan to move ahead,” said President Stephen C. Ainlay.

Ainlay is among 30 experts culled from public and private colleges and universities, as well as the business community, who were named to the state Commission on Higher Education last May. The panel was created by Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who received the commission’s preliminary report Monday, Dec. 17. A final report is due by June 1, 2008.

Among the proposals recommended by the commission, which was chaired by Hunter Rawlings III, the former president of Cornell University:

  • Create a low-interest loan program financed by tax-exempt bonds so New Yorkers gain access to lower-cost capital to meet college expenses;
  •  Increase financial aid and program support for students enrolled in the state’s opportunity programs; 
  • Establish a $3 billion, peer-review Empire State Innovation Fund to spur research and foster economic development;
  • Support innovative education partnerships between colleges and universities and school districts to address the comprehensive needs of students; and
  • Promote New York State’s colleges and universities in nations abroad.

“It has been an honor to serve on a commission that has identified several significant steps that should be considered if we are to meet the challenges and embrace the opportunities before us,’’ said Ainlay.

Founded in 1795, the first college chartered by the Board of Regents of the State of New York, Union has historically played a key role in shaping higher education in the state.

The series of recommendations outlined in the commission’s preliminary report are “but one step in our collective effort to reshape higher education in New York by preparing well-rounded citizens who understand the demands of our technological and scientific society,” Ainlay said.

To read the preliminary report click here.