Bulletin News

College’s Tutoring Program Wins $1 Million Grant


SUNY Cortland will receive a $1 million grant to expand a highly successful online tutoring network considered a key component of the 64-campus SUNY system’s plans to improve student completion rates, SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher announced today.

The funding for SUNY Cortland’s STAR-NY program was part of $18 million awarded to 22 SUNY campuses out of a new Investment and Performance Fund created to support SUNY’s goal of graduating 150,000 students annually by 2020.

The $1 million grant, which will enable SUNY Cortland to expand its online tutoring network beyond its current 14 campuses, was one of the largest single awards made to any campus from the fund. SUNY Cortland also received an additional $240,000 to work with SUNY Broome and Tompkins Cortland Community College to make it easier for students to turn an associate’s degree into a bachelor’s degree.

“This award recognizes our success in partnering with other campuses to create a shared resource that can benefit all SUNY students,” SUNY Cortland President Erik Bitterbaum said. “We strongly support the chancellor’s emphasis on student success and believe expanding and enhancing STAR-NY will both increase the number of SUNY graduates and decrease the time it takes to get a degree.”

The grants were announced as part of Zimpher’s 2016 State of the University address, which highlighted innovative and data-driven success programs aimed at realizing the diverse campuses’ shared goals.

STAR-NY was created at SUNY Cortland in 2011 as an online resource that gave students from several different campuses access to writing tutors. Fourteen SUNY campuses now share online tutors in math, writing, statistics, accounting, chemistry and biology.

In addition to SUNY Cortland, the participating campuses are: Tompkins-Cortland Community College, Binghamton University, SUNY Oswego, SUNY Poly, Morrisville State College, Finger Lakes Community College, SUNY Plattsburgh, University at Buffalo, University at Albany, Buffalo State, Alfred State, SUNY Cobleskill and Ulster Community College.

“We want to expand the number of campuses participating in STAR-NY as well as increase the hours and the range of subjects it supports,” said Esa Merson, director of SUNY Cortland’s Academic Support and Achievement Program (ASAP), which created and manages the initiative. “Students are very comfortable in the online environment. It offers them one-on-one live tutoring when and where they need it.”

Online help is available most evenings until midnight, which is when most students are writing papers, preparing for exams or doing homework. Although the tutors are diverse, ranging from full-time faculty and adjunct staff to graduate students and peer tutors, all receive similar training, Merson said.

“They use the Socratic approach, so nobody tells the students what to do,” Merson said. “They ask students questions and guide them to a better understanding.”