History of SUNY

The State University of New York (SUNY) was founded at Potsdam, New York, in 1816. Years later, the Morrill Act of 1862 led to the creation of four Ivy League land-grant SUNY colleges, which now exist at Cornell University. SUNY was officially established in February 1948 when New York became the 48th state (of the then 48 states) to create a state university system. SUNY initially represented a consolidation of 29 unaffiliated institutions, including 11 teachers colleges. These colleges, with their unique histories and backgrounds, united for a common goal—to serve New York State.

Since 1948, SUNY has grown to include 64 individual colleges and universities that were either formerly independent institutions or directly founded by the State University of New York. The 1950s were devoted to development and organization. Significant achievements included establishments of the Upstate and Downstate Medical Centers, the Research Foundation of the State University, and accreditation of SUNY as a single institution by the Middle States Association. The next decade saw academic and physical growth that was without precedent in U.S. education history. SUNY was reshaped into strong liberal arts colleges and four major university centers; the Stony Brook Health Sciences Center was founded; and the framework for today’s 30 locally sponsored community colleges was set in place.

Today, the State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of public higher education in the country. It provides access to almost every field of academic or professional study within the system with more than 7,000 degree and certificate programs. Its 64 campuses, which serve more than 462,000 students, are divided into four categories, based on educational mission, types of academic opportunities available, and degrees offered. The SUNY Learning Network also provides educational opportunities online to more than 200,000 students. There are more than 2.8 million alumni of SUNY residing in New York State and throughout the world.

For more information, please visit the History of SUNY and SUNY Fast Facts on the SUNY site.


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