She also said SUNY can learn from innovations in Michigan and Colorado to leverage private sector and government funds to bridge the gap between traditional financial aid and the quickly rising cost of higher education.
"If you are asking are there answers to the affordability question, I believe there are," Zimpher said.
She is also open to boosting SUNY's image through bigger time sports, the way public universities in California, North Carolina and other states have.
"I am totally steeped in both the benefits of collegiate athletics and the challenge, and the balance that needs to be created," said Zimpher. In 2005, she famously forced out Cincinnati's popular basketball coach over what she considered a character issue after he was charged with drunken driving.
SUNY has no campus with the major sports reputation of Syracuse University, a private institution that has a long history of national television coverage in basketball and football against the country's top universities.
"If there is an appetite for advancing the athletics in some sites around some particular sports, not all sports across the board, I would be a good listener," said Zimpher, who has served as a Big East conference representative on the NCAA board.
Trustees at Cincinnati twice extended her contract to run through 2012 and credited her with raising the school's academic profile, building enrollment and donor support, and improving finances. Cincinnati has 37,000 students compared to SUNY's 500,000 students on 64 campuses.
Besides her pay, Zimpher will get the use of SUNY apartments in Manhattan and in Albany as well as a car and driver.
Her husband of 20 years, Kenneth Howey, will also get a part-time position that she said is yet to be determined. He is a research professor at the University of Cincinnati and has written books with Zimpher on urban education.