The Structure of Higher Education

 

All colleges and universities in New York -- public, non-profit independent, and for-profit proprietary --are members of The University of the State of New York, an entity established in the New York State Constitution that embraces all education in New York, public and private, from prekindergarten through post­doctoral.  The University was created in 1784.  It is governed by The Board of Regents of The University of the State of New York, an unpaid lay board of 16 members elected by the Legislature to five-year terms.

The higher education portion of The University of the State of New York consists of 271 public, independent, and proprietary degree-granting institutions, about 6.3 percent of the nation's 4,296 colleges and universities.  New York's colleges and universities operate at 373 main and branch campuses and more than 1,800 other locations.  In 2003-04, they had about $30 billion in expenditures for operation and sponsored research.  State appropriations supported 14 percent of expenditures; the other 86 percent came from private sources (including tuition and fees), local governments, and the federal government.  In 2008-09, their students earned more than 251,000 degrees.  In the fall of 2010, the institutions had a total headcount enrollment of more than 1,272,000 students.  The degree-granting institutions comprise two public university systems: the State University of New York with 64 campuses and The City University of New York with 19, and the Wadsworth Center for Laboratories and Research of the New York State Department of Health (a free-standing public institution), 147 independent (not-for-profit) colleges and universities, and 40 proprietary (for-profit) colleges.

SUNY and CUNY each has a central governing board and administration.  Generally, each board has the same powers and responsibilities as the governing boards of the independent colleges.

The State University of New York (SUNY) has campuses across the State.  It was created in 1948.  Thirty-four campuses are fully State-operated; two offer only graduate study and 32 offer baccalaureate and graduate programs (including four comprehensive universities).  In the fall of 2010, the 34 had a total headcount enrollment of nearly 222,000 students.  The other 30 are community colleges, sponsored by local governments (usually counties) under SUNY's general supervision.  One community college offers associate degree, baccalaureate, and master's degree programs; the other 29 are two-year colleges.  In the fall of 2010 they had a total headcount enrollment of more than 246,000 students.  A 16-member Board of Trustees governs SUNY.  The Governor appoints 15 members, with the consent of the Senate, and the student body chooses one student.  SUNY's State-operated campuses derive almost 40 percent of their income from direct State appropriations; the balance is from tuition and fees, Federal funds, and other sources.  Its community colleges are funded under a system that shares expenditures among the State, the local government sponsor, and tuition and fees.  Under that system, they derive almost 30 percent of their operating income from direct State appropriations.  Normally, State aid may not exceed about 40 percent of operating income and tuition revenue may not exceed one-third of operating income; the local sponsor provides the remainder.  Each community college has its own nine-member board of trustees.  The local sponsor appoints five members and the Governor, four.

The City University of New York (CUNY) is located in New York City.  It was created in 1961. CUNY has 13 senior colleges (three offering study through the doctorate, six offering undergraduate and master's degree programs, three offering programs to the baccalaureate level, and a school of law) and six community colleges (all two-year).  In the fall of 2010, CUNY's senior colleges had a total enrollment of more than 172,000 and its community colleges, more than 91,000, students.  CUNY is governed by a 17-member Board of Trustees: ten members appointed by the Governor, with the consent of the Senate; five appointed by the Mayor of New York City, also with the consent of the State Senate, a representative of the student body, and a faculty representative.  CUNY's community colleges do not have separate boards of trustees.  Nearly 60 percent of the funding of CUNY's senior colleges is provided by State appropriations; the balance is from tuition and fees and Federal and local funds.  CUNY's community colleges are funded under the same system that applies to SUNY's community colleges.  They derive almost 35 percent of their operating income from direct State appropriations.

There are 147 independent colleges and universities in New York; most are chartered (incorporated) by the Regents or by acts of the State Legislature and have their own boards of trustees.  All are operated on a not-for-profit basis.  They operate on 211 main and branch campuses.  Thirty-one offer only graduate study, 96 offer undergraduate and graduate programs (including 12 comprehensive universities); 19 are two-year colleges.  Most of the independent institutions are members of a corporation called the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities of the State of New York (cIcu).  The independent colleges derive less than one-half of one percent of their income from direct State aid.  In the fall of 2010, they had a total headcount enrollment of more than 485,000 students.

The 40 proprietary colleges are for-profit, private entities.  Most specialize in the fields of business and commerce.  They operate on 54 main and branch campuses.  Two offer only graduate study; 15 offer undergraduate and graduate programs; 23 are two-year colleges.  Most of these institutions are members of a corporation called the Association of Proprietary Colleges (APC).  The proprietary colleges receive no direct State aid.  In the fall of 2010, they had a total headcount enrollment of nearly 55,000 students.  (Some 500 licensed non-degree business, trade, and technical schools in the State, most of them proprietary, are not included in this category.)

With respect to higher education, the Board of Regents functions as a statewide coordinating board.  It is responsible for planning and coordination, evaluating quality, and promoting equity and access.  Since 1964, issues of need and duplication have been addressed through the State's process for long-range planning in higher education.  SUNY, CUNY, and each independent and proprietary college formulates a long-range master plan.  The State Education Department guides the process of formulating those plans.  The Board of Regents also develops or updates an overall master plan, The Statewide Plan for Higher Education, every eight years; the most recent Statewide Plan is for the 2004-2012 period.  The Statewide Plan takes into account the independent and proprietary institutions' master plans and, to the extent the Regents approve them, incorporates the SUNY and CUNY master plans.  To the extent they are incorporated in the Statewide Plan, the SUNY and CUNY master plans are subject to the Governor's approval.  The entire Statewide Plan also is subject to the Governor's approval.

The State Education Department is both New York’s state higher education agency and its state education agency.  On behalf of the Regents, it must register (approve) according to published standards of quality every curriculum creditable toward a degree at any degree-granting institution in the State (public, independent, or proprietary) before the institution may offer the program.  The Department also conducts periodic peer reviews of existing curricula; these reviews are concerned solely with the quality of curricula, not with need or duplication.  More than 30,000 programs of study are registered at New York's 271 colleges and universities.  In addition, the U.S. Secretary of Education recognizes the Board of Regents and the Commissioner of Education as a Nationally Recognized Accrediting Agency for 23 New York degree-granting institutions that have chosen voluntarily to use it as their institutional accreditor.

On behalf of the Regents, the Department administers State and federal grants and scholarships that promote equity in higher education, increase collaboration between schools and colleges to improve learning, address past under-representation in higher education and the professions, and contribute to the development of a well-educated populace.  It certifies teachers and school leaders for the State’s public schools and licenses practitioners of 48 learned professions.  To provide services for economically and educationally disadvantaged students to assist them in succeeding in college it administers the Higher Education Opportunity Program, which serves students at independent institutions, and oversees the opportunity programs at SUNY and CUNY.  The Department administers the federal Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.

One area that is outside the responsibility of the Board of Regents and the Education Department is the determination of the public higher education institutions’ budgets.  That process is in the hands of their governance structures, the Governor, and the Legislature.

 

 

Last Updated: July 8, 2011